EXETER — Union and school district attorneys are to meet Tuesday to continue negotiating a contract for Wyoming Area School District teachers, a conference that could end a strike now 12 days long.
The parties have not met since negotiations failed in the middle of August.
Teachers arrived in full force at a school board work session Tuesday night. They outnumbered residents at the meeting by about three to one.
Some in the crowd were angry that another week will pass with classrooms empty, but the board’s attorney handling bargaining arrangements, Jack Dean, said Wyoming Area Education Association attorney John Holland suggested Tuesday for the meeting and he agreed.
“I am confident,” Dean said. “Mr. Holland and I have a professional relationship. Our goal is to reach a fair contract.”
One teacher’s spouse spoke against the board’s ignorance of an employee’s right to earned pay raises. Others in attendance urged board members to hold their ground and not give in to demands of the union.
John Pegg of West Wyoming told the board that by his calculations the district’s general fund budget is headed for a negative balance and any agreement should be based on turning that around.
“Any proposal, I don’t care from what side — union, district — it has to be fiscally responsible,” Pegg said. “What we’re trying to accomplish here is to keep the students learning.”
The teachers collective bargaining agreement expired in 2010. For the last three years, educators have worked under terms of the old contract without raises. Teachers struck Sept. 3 when the school board balked at union proposals for a compensation package.
The hardest fought battles are over teacher contribution to insurance premiums and scheduled pay raises for the 2011-2012 school year.
The two parties must reach an agreement with enough time for students to finish school by June 15. If they cannot agree to contract terms, both must enter non-binding arbitration. If a second strike occurs, they must return with enough time to complete 180 days by June 30.
In other business, the board is to vote at Tuesday’s regular board meeting to approve Janet Serino as superintendent replacing Ray Bernardi, who announced his resignation last month.
Serino is now the assistant superintendent and has worked for the district for 13 years. The salary for her five-year contract would start at $113,065.