Contract a fresh start for Bethel Park

Published Nov 6, 2013 at 6:42 am (Updated Nov 5, 2013 at 3:17 pm)

Everyone in Bethel Park is relieved now that the school board and the teachers’ union have agreed to accept a fact-finding report and have reached a new contract.

Now, it’s time to take a really deep breath and move on to the business of educating students.

Negotiations were long and often contentious, but in the end, an agreement was reached. And, amazingly, in the 40 months, members of the Bethel Park Federation of Teachers worked under the terms of the former agreement. There was only one strike held in the fall of the first year.

Not everyone is happy with every point of the new, six-year contract, but there is one and right now, that is important to ensure the stability of the students, parents, administrators, staff and teachers.

Six years seems like a long contract, but in actuality the new contract is retroactive to the end of the old one. The new, fiercely fought contract will expire June 30, 2016. That’s less than three years away. Maybe negotiations should begin now, given the history of conflicts in Bethel Park.

One has to wonder what the financial state of the district will be in three years, or how much health care will cost. Funding cuts from the state and federal governments obviously played a role in the most recent contract. Will that fact change in less than three years? Will the district be working with more or less money when negotiating with the union? Odds are there will be even less money.

The price of gasoline for the buses continues to fluctuate, utility costs are rising, salaries for those not in the union go up. If the new contract took 40 months to achieve, heaven help the negotiators on both side when work begins on the 2016 contract.

For a while, at least, the district and union members can sit back and enjoy the fact there is a new contract. Tensions will be lessened and parents can begin to prepare for graduation knowing the current school year will end when it is scheduled.

The sun is shining a little brighter in Bethel Park.

Perhaps the situation was summed up best by Nancy Aloi Rose, district superintendent: “I personally am delighted to have a fresh start.”

Good luck Bethel Park and enjoy the next three years.

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