DALLAS TWP. – Dallas School District teachers, students and officials can finally put more than three years of labor strife behind them as the school board approved a new teachers contract at a short meeting Sunday night in the Wycallis Elementary School.
The Dallas Education Association, the teachers union, approved the contract on Sept. 20.
The agreement, which will run until Aug. 31, 2023, ends a dispute that dates back to August 2015 and saw three strikes, court-ordered negotiations and legal maneuvering.
“I think the cloud is going to start to lift, and the kids are going to know now that they’re not going to be anxious because they’re going to know that we’re here and there’s going to be stability,” teachers union President Michael Cherinka said. “There’s going to be no threats of strikes, or nothing hanging over their heads.”
The new contract is retroactive to Sept. 1, 2015.
However, District Solicitor Vito DeLuca said there will be no retroactive payments.
“One of the issues that really started to manifest itself as the years went on was the inability of the district to really pay a large retroactivity award,” DeLuca said. “This proposal was a compromise. We have no retroactivity … and we really insured the sustainability of finances for the district by securing some concessions for the new hires.”
New teacher hires will pay a 10 percent premium share, lose an early retirement incentive and won’t have their medical insurance paid for after retirement, he added.
Current employees will pay about 6 percent of their healthcare and were offered a no premium-share option with reduced benefit levels.
Both DeLuca and Dallas Education Association President Michael Cherinka lauded mediator Bill Gross with helping make the contract a reality.
Gross was appointed by Judge William Amesbury back in August to negotiate with both sides in binding arbitration with the hopes of sealing a deal. Previously, the association and district were ordered to have daily negotiations in July after the association held a strike in June.
Cherinka said he was happy to see the two sides finally come to an agreement.
“This huge weight has been lifted,” he said. “I’m happy that we’re just going to be able to get back to focusing on teaching the kids here at Dallas and have some stability for the next five years.”
Cherinka added that not only will teachers and district board members be happy, but district students should be as well.
Both DeLuca and Cherinka said both sides have learned valuable lessons and hope they now have the tools and resources for preventing such an event from happening again.
“We really did the best that we could with what we had,” Deluca said, citing a dynamic process married with an ever-changing financial status within the district throughout the negotiations.
Cherinka said he hopes the association and district can continue having a good relationship throughout the remainder of the contract, while keeping an open line of communication between the two entities.
“To just talk and keep everybody up-to-date on what’s going on, and that’s if something to come down the pike, we would know ahead of time and we could plan for it,” he said.