Greencastle-Antrim Education Association endorses teachers’ strike if needed

Time is running out for the contract of the 193 teachers of the Greencastle-Antrim School Districtand members of the teachers’ union have authorized management to call a strike if necessary.

Ninety per cent of teachers who cast their ballots on Thursday August 18 gave the green light to the Greencastle-Antrim Education Association bargaining team to strike at any time with the legal 48-hour notice.

Four years ago:Contract gives teachers a 2% raise

New to high school:Generosity of the Shockey family recognized by the name of the performing arts center

GAEA says school board members have not committed to anything after months of negotiations, while a statement from the board sends people back to the district’s website to “find our proposals and view the many tentative agreements reached over the past year.”

“We will continue to bargain in good faith because a strike is the last thing anyone wants,” said Brandon Solomon, a high school English teacher and president of GAEA. “But our teachers have said loud and clear that we are ready to strike if necessary.”

“The district has been negotiating a new contract with the association since the beginning of this year and continues to meet and negotiate in good faith,” the council statement said. “The district will continue to work with the association in the negotiation process and hopes that a final contract can be reached soon.”

What can teachers and the board disagree on?

The main sticking points in contract negotiations are wages and insurance. The current contract is due to expire on August 31, and additional trading sessions are scheduled for August 29, September 13 and September 29.

The day after the vote, Solomon said the first day of school, Wednesday August 24, would go ahead as planned and the GAEA would continue to negotiate in hopes of a resolution.

“We hope to reach an agreement by the end of the month,” Chris Bonillas, a member of the school board’s bargaining team, said at the board meeting, also held on August 18. Shannon Blanchard is the lead negotiator for the team which also includes Eileen Dickinson.

“That would be great,” said Dr. Carter Davison, vice chairman of the board.

Where are the salary negotiations?

The teachers are asking for a four-year contract while the board’s offer is for three years, with the possibility of a fourth, according to bargaining information on the district’s website.

Among the board’s priorities are changes to health care, as well as tightening salary increases and reimbursement of tuition associated with continuing education.

“All of these priorities are designed to improve the district’s long-term financial health and sustainability,” the website states. “The district is not opposed to a four-year term, but will need to see movement in health care and loan repayment.”

Board offers 2.65% raises for 2022-23; 2.5% for 2023-24; and 2.55% for 2024-25.

Teachers demand 4% in 2022-23; 3.8% in 2023-24; 3.5% in 2024-25; and 3.5% in 2025-26.

Members of the Greencastle-Antrim Education Association took part in the Old Home Week parade on August 10.  The teachers' contract expires on August 31.

“One percent might not seem like a lot, but sometimes it is,” Solomon said of the gap between the two proposals.

A beginning teacher with a bachelor’s degree is on the bottom rung of the pay scale and receives $51,852, while a teacher with a master’s degree at the top of the ladder earns $86,823, according to Dr. Lura Hanks , superintendent.

“In 2021, due to the pandemic and the district’s fear of potential financial instability, the district directed teachers and educators to freeze salaries. The teachers accepted the freeze, even though they continued to be in class every day,” reads a press release sent by the Pennsylvania State Education Association on behalf of GAEA. “Due to the freeze and lower salary increases in the previous contract, starting salaries – which were once the highest in Franklin County – are now third highest.”

There are six school districts in the county.

“I know the community of Greencastle-Antrim is very proud of its school district… It has an excellent reputation,” said PEAS spokesperson Lauri Lebo. She said if the district wants to maintain that reputation, it needs to work with the people who are in the classrooms every day and who work directly with students.

“We need the school board to start working with us to come up with a contract that reflects the health and financial sacrifices we have made throughout the pandemic,” said GAEA president-elect Susie Kline.

“With a national teacher shortage at a time of crisis, Greencastle-Antrim board members must invest in its educators if they are to be able to attract and retain quality teachers,” according to the press release from the Greencastle-Antrim. PSEA.

What health care changes are proposed?

When it comes to health care, there are “changes they want that we can’t accept,” Solomon said.

To avoid a strike four years ago, the district waived asking teachers to pay part of their insurance premium.

This request is back on the table. Teachers would pay 4% the first year and 6% the next two, under the most recent proposal.

Also, under the “spouse exclusion,” spouses who can obtain similar insurance benefits through their own employment or self-employment would not be eligible for district coverage.

A high deductible insurance plan option is also offered in addition to the existing Preferred Provider (PPO) organization.

What happens next?

Typically, during collective bargaining, tentative agreements — or TAs — are reached, toward the larger goal, Lebo said.

She said the board refused to “TA” any of the issues and nothing was resolved on the contract proposals.

“School board members have not committed to anything. Zero,” Solomon said. “After negotiating for almost an entire year, these stonewalling tactics mean we are still at square one. Frankly, they insult the teachers and educators who have worked so hard to support their students and their community throughout the pandemic. »

To mark the first day they will work under the terms of their expired contract, the teachers will be at the school board meeting on September 1. They will stand in solidarity outside the Antrim Township building from 5.30pm to 6.00pm. A coffee conference, open to the public, will follow at 7 p.m. at the Life Center, 35 N. Carlisle St., Greencastle.

“Since the school board has already released its contract proposal, the teachers will be making the public aware of their issues with negotiating a fair contract,” the press release reads.

Shawn Hardy is a reporter for Gannett’s Franklin County newspapers in south-central Pennsylvania – Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro, and Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has over 35 years of journalism experience. Contact her at [email protected]

Andrew B. Reiter