The School District released a statement Monday explaining the move. The development means that no contract settlement will be reached until at least the beginning of the school year in the fall. The third party fact finder will take a look at both the school board and the union's positions and then write a contract proposal. If both sides agree to the fact finder's proposal the contract will be settled. If one or the other side rejects the fact finder's proposal the contract talks go back to the negotiating table.
While the West Chester Area Education Association has been publicly silent on the new development the School District Board issued a press release Wednesday that the School Board President uses to take a swipe at the teacher's union.
“The Association’s rejection of the proposal to pilot Professional Learning Communities within our schools is extremely disappointing, and will certainly have a negative impact on student instruction” said School Board President Vince Murphy in a statement released by the school district.
According to the WCASD, the program Murphy refers to would add new duties to teachers' responsibilities by adding an in-school program that would see teachers meet to discuss instructional strategies for students, and provide students with additional remediation and enrichment instructional time during the school day.
On June 4 the teachers' union issued a statement that says: "The school board has shown no desire to settle a reasonable contract. Board members have not attended any negotiating sessions that first began in December 2011, nearly 18 months ago. WCAEA members are asking for nothing more than a fair contract comparable to other area school districts."
“Our members want to settle a fair contract and get back to giving 110% of our time and effort to our students as we always do,” said Deborah Fell, President of WCAEA. “The school board has done nothing but stand in the way of our progress.
Neither side generally speaks to the press about the negotaitions except through press releases and their websites. As of early Thursday morning the Teachers' union had not issued any statements on the decision to send the contract talks to a fact finder.This is a developing story. Patch will update this story as new details become available.
Here is the full text of a press release issued by the WCASD Wednesday morning:
(West Goshen, PA) June 18, 2013 – In a bid to make progress in teacher contract negotiations, the School Board of the West Chester Area School District announced it has agreed to a request from the teachers union to jointly file for Fact Finding with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. Both the School Board and the Association recognize that the conventional negotiation process has resulted in the current impasse.
The School Board’s acceptance of the Association’s request comes in spite of the fact that the union has rejected the Board’s latest three-year contract offer, and also declared an unwillingness to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to pilot the Professional Learning Community (PLC) process in three schools during the upcoming school year. The Association’s decisions were made known in a June 11th e-mail message to the Board’s lead negotiator, Jeffrey Sultanik.
“The Association’s rejection of the proposal to pilot Professional Learning Communities within our schools is extremely disappointing, and will certainly have a negative impact on student instruction” said School Board President Vince Murphy.
The PLC process has been an educational initiative jointly developed by teachers and administrators for the past two years. It provides an opportunity for teachers to meet during the school day to discuss instructional strategies for students, and provides students with additional remediation and enrichment instructional time during the school day.
An MOU would be needed to implement this process while the contract is being negotiated. This newly created instructional time is not currently in the schedule and could violate the “status quo” situation the District is in, due to not having a successor teacher’s contract. The Board remains concerned that the Association has put their own contract negotiation interests ahead of what is certainly in the best interest of students in the district, namely the educational innovation of PLCs.
In the June 11th communication, the Association also invited the Board to enter jointly into the Fact Finding process. Fact Finding is a non-binding dispute resolution mechanism permitted by Act 88 of 1992 under which opposing parties submit their disputed offers to a third-party reviewer. The reviewer then issues a written report outlining a recommended settlement that both parties are required to approve or reject within 10 calendar days of its issuance.
According to Sultanik, “Given our apparent impasse at the bargaining table, this appears to be our only viable solution in attempting to narrow the dispute between the parties.”
The request to the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board for Fact finding would take place on July 24, 2013. The Fact Finder’s Recommendation would then be forthcoming right at the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year. Once a report is issued, both sides will have 10 days to accept or reject the Fact Finder’s report in its entirety. If both the Board and Association approve the report, the parties will have a contract.
The Board wants to keep the negotiations process moving in order to reach an agreement that supports students, is fair to teachers and is fiscally responsible to the community.
WCASD and Union Prepare for Talks