No agreement reached in GASD contract

Shawn Hardy
It was standing room only at the Greencastle-Antrim School Board meeting for the vote on the fact-finder’s report concerning the teachers contract Thursday night.

The Greencastle-Antrim School Board unanimously rejected the recommendations in a fact-finder’s report Thursday night, a day after the proposed contract received significant support from the 180.5-member Greencastle-Antrim Education Association.

More than 50 people packed the meeting room, many wearing buttons that said “GAEA Teachers Care” prior to the school board vote.

“The board’s rejection vote means that teachers and the district still have not reached a contract agreement after almost a year of negotiations,” according to a news release from the Pennsylvania State Education Association. Teachers have been working under the terms of the previous contract, which expired Aug. 31.

From the teachers

“The fact finder’s report recommended small salary increases for four years of the contract and minimal changes to the teachers’ health-care plan,” according to the release from PSEA. “The recommended salary increases are affordable, according to the report, because of the district’s solid financial standing and growing fund balance.”

“We believe the report reflects our long-standing commitment to the Greencastle-Antrim community and our students,” said Ellen Kirkner, a high school social studies teacher and president of the G-AEA. “Our teachers are an educational investment in the community. We hope board members will rethink their short-sighted position and revote in favor of this report.”

From the board 

Prior to making the motion to reject the fact-finders report, Eric Holtzman, lead negotiator for the school board, called it “fiscally irresponsible from both a short-term and long-term perspective.”

After the meeting, the board released a statement from solicitor Michael King of Stock and Leader saying the fact-finder found “the district provides the highest salaries of all school districts in Franklin County, whether measured by starting salary, average salary or career salary; and that the association has acknowledged that the district’s local tax effort is the highest of the five districts in the county.”

The statement says the fact-finder then ignored those findings and made recommendations ‘that can only result in even greater disparity between Greencastle’s salaries and tax rates as compared to those of other districts in the county.”

What happens next 

Under state law, the school board and teachers are now required to vote again after a cooling-off period of not less than five days and in no more than 10 days. Kirkner said the teachers will likely vote again after a meeting that begins at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 13.

“We sincerely hope the board reconsiders,” said Brandon Solomon, a high school English teacher and lead negotiator for G-AEA. “We would like to start the new year fresh and focused on delivering a first-class education to our students without the uncertainty of an expired contract.”

“If either side rejects the proposal again, we will have to decide what our next step will be,” Solomon said, while Kirkner added, “We have to get guidance from our members and the negotiating committee.”

Asked specifically about the potential for a strike, Solomon said. “A strike is always one of the options.”

The complete fact-finders’ report will be posted on the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board website.