HERMITAGE SCHOOLS Teachers and board set arbitration panel

No date has been set for the two sides to present their cases to the panel.
HERMITAGE, Pa. -- The school board and its teachers have made tentative selections to fill a three-member arbitration panel that will try to help settle a new contract.
The teachers have asked George Hughes, a field office manager for the Pennsylvania State Education Association and a former union field representative for Mercer County, to represent them on the panel.
The school board has asked Atty. Roger Shaffer Jr. of Hermitage to represent it.
The two sides have also agreed to ask Dr. William Caldwell, a member of the American Arbitration Association, to serve as the third, neutral arbitrator and chairman of the panel.
All the appointments are tentative, depending upon their availability.
The panel's findings won't be binding on either party but will be only a recommendation.
Time line: The 165 Hermitage teachers went on a seven-day strike in March but were ordered back into the classroom by the state department of education.
State law governing teacher negotiations mandates that talks be submitted to nonbinding arbitration after a strike.
If either side rejects the arbitration panel's recommendation, the teachers could strike again before the last day of school, scheduled for June 14.
No hearing date has been set for the arbitration, but state law requires the process to be completed within 50 calendar days of the teachers' return to work after a strike.
They went back to work April 1; the 50 days will be up around May 20.
The issues: A meeting set for Thursday night between the two sides and state mediator George Loomis to determine exactly what issues will be submitted to arbitration was canceled at Loomis' request and hasn't been rescheduled.
Money appears to be the only stumbling block to a settlement. The teachers are seeking a $2,700 average annual increase, while the school board is offering an average annual raise of $1,600.
The old contract expired July 1, 2001.

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