HERMITAGE Teachers, schools finalize panel

It is up to the neutral arbitrator to schedule a hearing date.
HERMITAGE, Pa. -- The arbitration panel that will make a recommendation for settling the Hermitage teacher contract dispute has been finalized, but no hearing date has been scheduled.
Superintendent Karen Ionta said today the school board selected Atty. Roger Shaffer Jr. of Hermitage to serve as its arbitrator.
The Hermitage Education Association, representing the district's 165 teachers, has selected George Hughes, a field office manager with the Pennsylvania State Education Association, as its representative.
The two sides also have selected Dr. William Caldwell, a member of the American Arbitration Association, to serve as the third, neutral, arbitrator. He also will serve as panel chairman.
Ionta said the school district hasn't heard from Caldwell and it will be up to him to schedule a date or dates for a hearing in which the two sides will present their arguments.
The arbitration panel can only make a recommendation for settling the dispute. Neither side is bound by its findings.
On strike in March
The teachers have been without a contract since July 1 and went on strike for seven days in March to force the school board into nonbinding arbitration as required by the state law governing teacher contract negotiations.
If the arbitration findings are rejected, the teachers could strike again.
The law gives the two sides 50 days to complete the arbitration process from the date the teachers returned to work. There is no penalty for exceeding that time limit. The teachers returned to the classroom April 1.
Money is the stumbling block to a settlement.
The school board is offering annual average wage increases of $1,600 in a three-year package, and the teachers are seeking average annual increases of $2,700.

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