BP teachers, school board without agreement since 2010

Published Oct 16, 2013 at 11:27 am (Updated Oct 16, 2013 at 12:30 pm)

The Bethel Park Federation of Teachers as well as the Bethel Park School Board accepted the fact-finding report from the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board last week. The recommendations in the report now serve as a basis for a contract between the two parties.

“An agreement allows the district and the union to put this protracted negotiation behind us and refocus our attention on providing Bethel Park students with the best education possible,” said BPFT President Diann Smith.

While the teacher’s union and the school district have been negotiating over a new agreement since 2010, two days after the teachers accepted the recommendations, the school board approved the fact-finder in an executive session held Oct. 9.

According to Bethel Park Director of Public Relations Vicki Flotta, because the board voted yes for the report, it won’t be taking any official action until the contract is finalized and ready to be signed. Additionally, until both sides sign a formal agreement, the district will not release any specifics.

Expectations, however, are that the formal contract will be signed by both parties in the near future. Until the new contact is signed, the district will not publicly comment.

The prior agreement expired on June 30, 2010, with the district and teachers in continuous talks since April 2010. During the period since, there have been face-to-face negotiations, a six-week strike, non-binding arbitration and two fact-finders, the most recent requested by the district on August 21, 2013.

“The acceptance of the fact-finding report represents countless hours of hard work by both parties,” said Bethel Park School Board President Donna Cook. “We are pleased to have a report that is agreeable to both parties, that is fair to the taxpayers of Bethel Park, and most importantly, a fact-finding Report that is beneficial to the children of our community.”

“We recognize the past three years have posed challenges for our staff and created a strain on our community, school board and administrators,” explained Bethel Park Superintendent Nancy Aloi Rose. “We are grateful to see an end to the negotiations process and we look forward to renewing our focus on providing the best possible education for our students.

How some of the findings impact the students is a concern to the teacher’s union. “We were disappointed with the negative impact that some of the fact-finder’s recommendations will have on the students in Bethel Park,” Smith said.

Nevertheless, the school board is pleased with the progress made toward what appears to be an end to the long-labor strife.

“We are appreciative that our teaching staff worked diligently to put the contract issues aside during this prolonged negotiations process to focus on the needs of the students. We appreciate their commitment to providing quality education for our students.”

The report contains recommendations on items such as salaries and benefits as well as length and number of workdays. They will become the base for a contract that runs June 30, 2010, through June 30, 2016.

The school district and the teacher’s union have been negotiating since 2010 over a new agreement. Both sides have endured a six-week strike in 2010, non-binding arbitration in 2011, and another fact-finder report at the union’s request in 2012. All attempts failed to bring the two sides together, particularly on the issues of salaries and health benefits.

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