Teachers, board have tentative deal

Shawn Hardy

The Greencastle-Antrim Education Association and the Greencastle-Antrim School Board reached a tentative contract agreement Monday evening, averting a strike that was scheduled to begin Wednesday, April 11.

The contract still needs to be approved by both the teachers union and the school board before it is finalized and details released. The votes have not yet been scheduled.

“It’s been a lengthy process, but we are relieved to have reached an agreement that we feel is mutually beneficial to our members, the school district and our students,” Ellen Kirkner, GAEA president and high school social studies teacher, said in a joint press release issued after Monday's negotiating session.

“Nobody wanted a strike,” said Brandon Solomon, a high school English teacher and GAEA’s chief negotiator. “It’s a relief that we were able to avert one at the last minute.”

In the press release, Greencastle-Antrim School Board President Jim Winslow said, “The board is happy that both sides have worked hard to find a common ground. The tentative agreement will allow for families to return to a sense of normalcy and a schedule they can depend on. Thanks to all involved."

"I am sure these past few weeks have been stressful as you have tried to prepare for a pending strike and the effects it would have on your family," Dr. Kendra Trail, superintendent, wrote in a letter to parents. "Thank you very much for your patience and understanding as both sides worked to find common ground."

The tentative agreement came after more than a year of negotiations, with the 181 members of GAEA — teachers, nurses, guidance counselors, reading specialists and librarians — working under the terms of a contract that expired on Aug. 31, 2017.

In December, members of GAEA voted twice to accept the terms of fact-finder's report and the school board voted twice to reject it.

The fact-finder's recommendations included salary increases affected by factors including educational levels and years of service. Those proposed increases and costs to the district were: 2.87 percent or $365,109 for 2017-18; 2.79 percent of $364,603 for 2018-19; 2.96 percent or $397,689 for 2019-20; and 2.96 percent or $409,780 for 2020-21.

Recent proposals from GAEA included salary increases less than those recommended by the fact-finder, but numbers were not made public.

As contract talks continued into 2018, GAEA announced in February it would strike on April 4, with that date pushed to April 11 after progress was made at the bargaining table.