HERMITAGE SCHOOLS Meeting will set arbitration issues

The superintendent still hopes the two sides can settle their contract differences through negotiation.
HERMITAGE, Pa. -- A state mediator and representat ives of the Hermitage School Board and its teachers union will meet Thursday to narrow the focus of pending contract arbitration.
George Loomis, the state mediator assigned to the Hermitage talks, will meet with Atty. Donald McKay, representing the school board, and Marty Boyd, representing the teachers union, at 5 p.m. to determine what issues will be presented to a three-member arbitration panel.
The district's 165 teachers went on strike for seven days in late March after contract talks failed to produce a new agreement. Their old pact expired July 1, 2001.
Next step: State law required the teachers to return to work April 1, and the same law now requires the two sides to submit their dispute to nonbinding arbitration.
Each side will pick an arbitrator to sit on the panel, and those two will pick a third, neutral arbitrator from a list supplied by the American Arbitration Association.
Superintendent Karen Ionta said she still hopes the two sides will hold further negotiations to resolve the dispute before arbitration. However, no bargaining sessions have been scheduled, she said today.
State law requires the arbitration process to be completed within 50 calendar days of the teachers' returning to work.
At issue: Money appears to be the only stumbling block to a settlement at this point, with the teachers' requesting a $2,700 average annual increase and the school board offering a $1,600 average increase. The current starting salary for teachers is $31,976, with the top of the scale being $63,200.
The last day of school and graduation day for seniors was June 5, but the strike has pushed it back to June 14.

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