Teachers walkout postponed a week

Shawn Hardy

Greencastle-Antrim School District teachers did not go on strike Wednesday, April 4, as contract negotiations continue, but could walk out next week.

"Because of some progress at the bargaining table Monday night, Greencastle-Antrim Education Association has postponed Wednesday’s strike until April 11," according to a news release from the teachers union.

There was an agreement on one small issue, “but there remains a lot of work to do before an agreement can be reached,” said Ellen Kirkner, GAEA president and high school social studies teacher, said the the release issued Tuesday.

The school board approved a tentative negotiations agreement with the teachers union Monday night, according to a press release from Dr. Kendra Trail, superintendent.

"In addition to the tentative agreements approved in 2017, these will form the basis of a future contract, from which both sides will continue to negotiate in future meetings scheduled for April 5 and April 9," Trail's release said.

"The Board desires to continue negotiating in a fair and transparent manner with the association, and looks forward to a future contract approved by both parties."

The 181 members of GAEA — teachers, nurses, guidance counselors, reading specialists and librarians — have been working under the terms of a contract that expired Aug. 31, 2017.

Contract talks started more than a year ago and eventually a fact-finder was brought in. In December, the fact-finder's recommendations were twice accepted by the teachers and twice rejected by the school board. In February, the union announced it would strike April 4 if a tentative agreement was not reached.

With variables included for years of service and levels of education, the fact-finder's recommendation included raises of 2.87 percent for 2017-18; 2.79 percent for 2018-19; 2.96 percent for 2019-20; and 2.96 percent for 2020-21.

A recent proposal from GAEA has lower salary increases, according to Brandon Solomon, a high school English teacher who is GAEA's vice president and lead negotiator, who said he could not provide specifics.