Both sides in Dallas contract dispute submit letters to judge, appear to dig in

By Patrick Kernan - [email protected]

DALLAS — On Thursday, a Luzerne County judge asked both parties in the ongoing Dallas School District contract dispute to try to come to some sort of terms to get them back to negotiating, and submit letters detailing those terms.

Based on what both sides told a Times Leader reporter, it seems like coming back to the table is little more than a pipe dream.

At a Thursday hearing, Luzerne County Judge William H. Amesbury essentially pleaded with the school board and the Dallas Education Association to come to an agreement in regards to an order for court directed negotiations.

District solicitor Vito DeLuca had previously filed an appeal of the order, while the union filed a motion to hold the district in contempt of court after it stopped coming to the meetings after only a week of negotiations.

By Friday afternoon, attorneys for both sides had submitted their letters. Based on what representatives for both parties said, there doesn’t seem to be any attempt to bring things to the middle.

DeLuca said his letter is asking for the judge to make one key change to the order: instead of allowing five members of both the school board and the union, he wants the makeup to be proportional, which would work out to five school board members and 121 teachers.

Jeffrey Husisian, attorney representing the union, was quoted in the Times Leader as calling the idea a “nonstarter,” as it would be impossible to get that many teachers to give up their summer vacations. DeLuca said he cited this quote in his letter.

“My school board members were prepared to put their whole summer aside,” he said.

Ultimately, he said the only thing that’s left to do is see what the courts — both Amesbury at the county level and the commonwealth appellate court — decide.

Mark McDade, chief negotiator for the union, also confirmed that their letter had been submitted as well.

According to McDade, their letter reiterates that the order, which the school board had agreed to before it was made official, needs to be followed to the letter. Additionally, they’re doubling down on their calls for the district to be held in contempt of court.

“It’s bad faith to the process and a slap in the face to the judge,” McDade said, adding that any changes to the order would be tantamount to rewarding bad behavior.

“They want to positively rewarded for negative actions, and that’s unacceptable,” McDade said.

By Friday afternoon, both DeLuca and McDade confirmed that they had not heard any response from Amesbury.

By Patrick Kernan

[email protected]

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan

Reach Patrick Kernan at 570-991-6386 or on Twitter @PatKernan