Dispatch and Times Leader staff
February 24, 2013
Wyoming Area School District teachers' union president Lisa Barrett has resigned that post, Superintendent Ray Bernardi confirmed Thursday. The union elected Melissa Dolman as new president, he added.
Barrett also requested a medical sabbatical from her teaching duties at Wyoming Area Secondary Center, school board President John Bolin said. The request was on the agenda at Tuesday's work session and will likely be voted on at the regular meeting next Tuesday.
News of Barrett's union resignation and request of a sabbatical came the same day Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis confirmed her office has agreed to a request by Wyoming Area officials to look into rumors of possible missing funds.
Salavantis said she will not know the details until she and a detective meet with district officials next week, and stressed it's just rumors at this point.
The moves come during protracted contract negotiations. The teachers have been working under the terms of a contract that expired in August 2010.
Barrett, a career technology teacher, was not at work at the Secondary Center on Thursday and did not respond to an email seeking comment.
John Holland, the lead negotiator for the teachers' union and field director of the Pennsylvania State Education Association's regional office, declined comment.
District lead negotiator attorney Jack Dean of Elliot Greenleaf law firm said he had not heard of the resignation. He noted that, while Holland has been lead negotiator for the union, Barrett has attended most negotiation sessions.
Those sessions have been held fairly regularly, Dean said, though they did slow during the Christmas season. We were meeting twice a month sometimes, he said.
While the talks have been going on for three years, they have been progressing, Dean said. We're moving toward the middle on both sides.
The next meeting of the two sides is scheduled for Monday.
Negotiations stayed largely out of the public eye until the union staged an informational picket before the start of January's regular monthly board meeting. Barrett spoke up both during the picket, held outside in near-freezing temperatures, and during the meeting, addressing the board.
All we're asking for is a fair contract, Barrett said during the picket. In a brief statement during the board meeting, she said the union was willing to meet as often as needed to work out a new agreement, but added ultimately it's five votes on the board.