Ready to rally: Line Mtn. teachers set to picket tomorrow's school board meeting
MANDATA - The 99 teachers represented by the Line Mountain Education Association (LMEA) will clash with the district school board tomorrow when they picket the public meeting.
With no contract resolution anywhere in sight and the shadow of a possible strike looming, the teachers are hoping to bring attention to their stalled negotiations and push the board toward "a fair and equitable" deal.
"Teachers would rather be in their classrooms teaching their students, and this school board needs to bargain in a meaningful way to settle a new contract," said Mark McDade of the Pennsylvania State Education Association.
Teachers have been working on an expired contract since June 2012. That one-year pact was an extension of a five-year contract that ended June 30, 2011, and guaranteed teachers a 3-percent raise each year.
The teachers have also been working to the rule since Sept. 30 to draw attention to the stalled contract negotiations. They will not volunteer their time for duties not described in their contract and will only work during the contracted 7 1/2 hours.
They will rally outside the middle/high school at 5:45 p.m. Tuesday before the 6:30 p.m. public meeting.
On the district's side, however, board President Troy Laudenslager said the board members "strongly disagree" with the assertions of the union.
"Actions speak louder than words. Based on the LMEA's own press releases and their unwillingness to meet with the board, they are obviously more interested in putting on a show rather than negotiating. Our attempts to negotiate in good faith have apparently fallen on deaf ears," he said.
It's been nearly five months since the two negotiating teams had a successful meeting. A Jan. 23 negotiation session was cut short after about an hour when Laudenslager said the teachers' team walked out without ever coming face-to-face with the board's team.
"If they want to negotiate, they would meet with us, and not just walk out," he said. "Instead, they announce a potential strike and make a work to rule proclamation that tries to prevent excellent teachers from participating in activities where they would receive additional compensation. "
Tutoring struggling students is one of the activities they have stopped participating, Laudenslager said.
Dignity and respect
"I am afraid their actions are only hurting student performance and their own reputation. We were given hope that some positive movement took place between our negotiators, but it doesn't look like they feel the same way," he said.
The district has nothing specific planned in response to the teachers at the meeting, and Laudenslager said he's extremely happy to hear they are going to attend.
"Our superintendent (Dave Campbell) has been trying to get LMEA representatives to regularly attend meetings for seven years, but they have been unwilling to participate. It will be a pleasant surprise to finally have teachers at our meetings," he said.
Union President Mark Shearer, also a teacher, said the contract dispute impacts working conditions, which also impacts student learning conditions.
McDade said the teachers are tasked with the great responsibility of educating future citizens of the state.
"Therefore, it is incumbent upon the Line Mountain School Board to reflect this awesome responsibility by treating their teachers with dignity and respect rather than contempt and disregard for them as people, let alone as professionals," he said.
If teacher accountability is greater now than ever before, McDade said it's time for the school board members to be held to the same standard by "respecting their teachers and recognizing the important service teachers selflessly provide to the Line Mountain community every day."
The teachers deserve action from the school board to deliver a professional contracts that reflects the dignity and worth of their profession, he said.
"In summation, why are we holding a rally? Because all teachers deserve to be treated with dignity and respect," he said.