DALLAS — Court-ordered negotiations to bring an end to labor strife in the Dallas School District have failed to produce a new teachers contract, and now the scheduled sessions are in doubt.
The district filed an appeal Tuesday, challenging a June 21 order from Luzerne County Judge William H. Amesbury that mandated negotiations between the district and the Dallas Education Association.
The district says it’s still willing to negotiate but won’t be following the court schedule. Meanwhile, the union says it will continue to show up for the court-ordered meetings, even if there is no one to negotiate with.
Amesbury’s order dictated that negotiations would begin July 10, continuing every weekday from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. If an agreement was not reached by July 14, negotiations would go to seven days a week, including from noon to 6 p.m. on weekends.
After only a week of these mandated sessions, district solicitor Vito DeLuca filed his appeal due to what he felt was an unnecessary burden on the school board.
“Right from the beginning, we were all very optimistic that if we were in a room, we would get some sort of compromise,” DeLuca said. “My group had shown up every day and made extreme efforts to make some sort of agreement.”
DeLuca said his issue was getting five school board members to attend each meeting.
He said it would have been easier if he were able to swap board members in and out, but he said the order specifically required the same five members at each session. That became difficult, especially considering he only had seven members to choose from while the union had more than 100.
DeLuca also suggested the parties were no closer to coming to a conclusion. He said the union’s most recent proposal would have left the district completely drained of its current $2.5 million fund balance. By the end of one year with the union’s plan, DeLuca said the district would be $350,000 in the red. After two years, he claimed it would be closer to $5.5 million.
Michael Cherinka, union president, indicated there was some hypocrisy in DeLuca’s claims.
“The last proposal we gave them, which was on Saturday, was less (money) than both of their proposals from March 6 and May 15, which we pointed out to them,” Cherinka said. “After we gave them that, there was no response, and next thing we know they were filing an appeal.”
Cherinka said he felt blindsided by DeLuca’s filing — especially since he initially agreed to the terms of the court order.
“I don’t know how you can appeal an order that was agreed upon by both sides,” he said.
According to Cherinka, the union would still be following Amesbury’s schedule, whether or not anyone from the school board shows up.
“I don’t want to be in contempt of court,” he said.
DeLuca, though, said there was no danger of being held in contempt. By filing the appeal, he said the case goes to the state level, which would supersede the order from the county judge.
Both sides, though, said they are trying to remain hopeful.
DeLuca said the appeal doesn’t hinder the district’s ability to negotiate. Cherinka said the union’s attorneys are working to determine the teachers’ next steps in the extended contract fight.
Dallas teachers have been on strike three times in the last two school years, including for one day in June.
Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan