Was there an offer? Dallas School Board, union again spar over talks

By Roger DuPuis - [email protected]
Dallas High School is seen in a file photo. Contract negotiations between the Dallas School Board and the Dallas Education Association continue to be stalled, with the two sides arguing this week about whether the union actually presented the district with an offer on Wednesday. - Times Leader file

Call it another case of “he said, he said.”

Attorneys for the Dallas School Board and the Dallas Education Association are once again trading barbs amid ongoing, contentious contract negotiations, with the two sides at odds over whether the union made a new offer during negotiations this week.

An attorney for the union says it did, but the offer was “off-the-record.” An attorney for the district says it didn’t.

Dallas School District teachers have been working without a contract since August 2015. The board and union started negotiating a new deal in 2014.

“They didn’t give us an offer,” school board attorney Vito DeLuca said of Wednesday’s negotiating session.

DeLuca said he attended the meeting with six board members, while the union’s delegation comprised only two: Teachers union president Michael Cherinka and Pennsylvania State Education Association attorney John Holland.

“I asked John Holland, ‘Do you have an offer for us?’ I asked three or four times, and he said no,” DeLuca said.

Holland challenged DeLuca’s account.

“The president and vice president of the board were given an offer by Michael Cherinka,” Holland said.

Efforts to reach Cherinka were not immediately successful Thursday.

“Mike had a talk with them, and they had an off-the-record discussion during which they were given an offer,” Holland added. “That’s a very common tool in negotiations.”

Holland said he could not comment on the terms of that proposal.

He and DEA supporters who have posted on a pro-union Facebook page maintain DeLuca responded that the district was not interested in the offer.

DeLuca flatly denied that.

“Wow,” he said. “That is absolutely not true. That’s just playing games.”

DeLuca said there had been a separate conversation between Cherinka and some board members, and that when they returned to the room, he asked Cherinka and Holland if they were making an offer, and they said they were not.

He told the Times Leader the district will keep the door open until an April 30 deadline.

A strike that had been set for April 13 has been postponed to May 18.

The union went on strike in September 2017 for seven days. Under state law, teachers are allowed to strike twice in a school year, as long as the first strike ends in time to complete 180 student-instructional days by June 15. A second strike must end in time to complete 180 days by June 30.

DeLuca accused the union of showing “absolutely no sense of urgency,” and having a weak grasp on vital questions related to insurance coverage — a key sticking point in talks.

“It seems obvious to me that they have not even the most basic understanding of what the health plan offerings are,” DeLuca said. “It’s frustrating.”

Holland expressed frustration, too.

“The district is not interested in reaching an agreement,” said Holland, who has filed an unfair labor practice complaint, which remains pending.

“They’re just trying to bust the union,” he said.

Dallas High School is seen in a file photo. Contract negotiations between the Dallas School Board and the Dallas Education Association continue to be stalled, with the two sides arguing this week about whether the union actually presented the district with an offer on Wednesday.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/web1_TTL03xx18DallasHighSchool-2.jpgDallas High School is seen in a file photo. Contract negotiations between the Dallas School Board and the Dallas Education Association continue to be stalled, with the two sides arguing this week about whether the union actually presented the district with an offer on Wednesday. Times Leader file

By Roger DuPuis

[email protected]