Sea Of Gray Shirts Says 'Let's Talk' To Pennsbury School Board
PEA Members Pack Thursday's School Board Meeting
Pennsbury Education Association members poured into Fallsington Elementary School Thursday night asking school board members to "communicate" and move contract talks forward.
The school’s multi-purpose room was so full monitors in the lobby area were set up so others who attended could watch the meeting. Union members wore pins that read, "Let’s talk," and the sea of gray shirts showed a sense of solidarity.
"Despite what newspapers say, the bond between parents and teachers remain solid," a Fallsington Elementary School social worker said before presenting board members with a petition.
Petitions from the schools within the district were presented to the board as speakers continued with the "Let’s talk" theme.
John Bowen, who said he has been in Levittown for over 33 and is the proud parent of two future Pennsbury students, asked that like his diverse PEA family at Charles Boehm, differences be set aside for the purpose of moving forward with contract negotiations.
Quarry Hill Elementary School Art Curriculum Coordinator Ruth Anne Schultz also urged the board to resume talks and settle a teacher’s contract.
Members have been without a contract since March 2010 when the board proposed a two-year agreement.
"Since March we’ve been waiting," PEA district spokeswoman Lucy Walter said.
The most recent school board proposal came with no salary increases and greater health care contributions from PEA members, Walter said.
Walter teaches at Pennsbury High School and said with other school districts in the area, like New Hope-Solebury School District, settling their talks, "why not us?"
Walter's closing statement during public comments received a standing ovation from PEA members in the audience.
Board President Gene Dolnick was the first to respond to the crowd.
"We have respect for Pennsbury teachers, staff," Dolnick said. "The issue is not the job you do every day."
Dolnick said that while PEA members’ decorum during the meeting was very positive and conducted in a professional manner that "there is a real disconnect."
He said the board was waiting for a union representative to respond before they could move forward.
Board member Simon Campbell’s comments made the very full room empty quickly when he mentioned the financial limitations of Act 1. He said that even if the board decided on a 1.4 percent tax increase it would not benefit PEA’s contract negotiations.
"There is potential for an exception. That’s not an allowable exception," Campbell said.
The union is asking for a five-year deal. They want to maintain their current health care and dental coverage and the current class size cap in a new contract. For more specific information on the PEA’s position check out proposal specifics.
Andrea Lawful-Trainer is PEA's Assistant Regional Director for zone 11. Although she attended the meeting, she said she was unable to present her statements during public comment.
Lawful-Trainer said she was quite surprised with the current state of talks.
"I believe with communication all things are possible," Lawful-Trainer said.
Nearly 900 members make up the union including teachers, librarians, nurses, psychologists, speech therapists, school counselors and social workers, according to the PEA website.
So what’s next? Walter said the ball is in the school board’s court.
"The silence is deafening. The time is now. We need to move forward," Walter said.