Teachers’ union asks judge to declare Dallas School District in contempt

By Mark Guydish - [email protected]
Wycallis Elementary teacher Amy Pavia, center, passes out informational flyers with other teachers outside Dallas High School before a school board meeting last month. - Times Leader file

DALLAS — Noting school board representatives have missed two court-ordered contract bargaining sessions, the Dallas teachers’ union has asked a Luzerne County judge to declare the district in contempt.

Attorney Jeffrey Husisian filed the request Thursday, responding to district solicitor Vito DeLuca’s decision to appeal County Judge William H. Amesbury’s order for mandatory negotiations. The order required negotiations to start July 10 and to be held every weekday from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. The order also required sessions to take place seven days a week if no agreement was reached by July 14.

DeLuca contends it has been too difficult to get the same five school board members to attend each meeting, as required by the order. He also suggested the two sides have come no closer since the order went into effect.

DeLuca said the appeal protects the district from a contempt ruling because it sends the case to the state level, superseding the county judge’s order.

In the union’s filing, Husisian argues the appeal does not supersede Amesbury’s order. He cites two similar court cases, including one in Crestwood School District, when a county judge ordered negotiations between that school board and the support staff union.

Husisian was the attorney for the Crestwood support staff union at the time. The school board had similarly appealed court-ordered negotiations. Crestwood officials argued the appeal superseded the court order, but both a county judge and Commonwealth Court ruled against the district.

The Commonwealth judge deemed the bargaining order was “interlocutory and not immediately appealable.” An interlocutory order is a decree or judgment given during the course of legal action, rather than a final order. Husisian contends there are ample case rulings that make it clear an appeal can only be made on final orders, not on interlocutory orders.

The union notes Amesbury’s order required negotiation sessions daily July 11 through 16, and that both sides met on those dates. But the district representatives did not show up July 17 or 18, which were also days for mandated sessions.

Because the bargaining order is interlocutory and cannot be immediately appealed, the district’s appeal doesn’t supersede the order, Husisian argues. That, in turn, means failure to show up at those two sessions “is illegal and in contempt” of Amesbury’s order.

The union seeks a hearing as soon as possible, and wants the judge to “order the School District to resume honoring the bargaining order.” It also wants the judge to “instruct the local sheriff to obtain custody of the School Board Members who, under the bargaining order, are required to attend the negotiation sessions” and to “physically escort said School Board members to the negotiation sessions.”

Wycallis Elementary teacher Amy Pavia, center, passes out informational flyers with other teachers outside Dallas High School before a school board meeting last month.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_TTL061918DSboard_1CMYK-2.jpgWycallis Elementary teacher Amy Pavia, center, passes out informational flyers with other teachers outside Dallas High School before a school board meeting last month. Times Leader file

By Mark Guydish

[email protected]

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish

Reach Mark Guydish at 570-991-6112 or on Twitter @TLMarkGuydish