LOWELLVILLE Teachers file notice of intent to strike

A union spokeswoman said the district has improved its performance, but average pay remains below other districts.
LOWELLVILLE -- As they enter their 10th month of negotiations with the Lowellville School District, teachers here have filed a notice of intent to strike.
If a tentative agreement is not reached by Jan. 21, teachers will take to the picket lines Jan. 22, said Cathy Russo, spokeswoman for Lowellville Education Association.
Contract negotiations between the district and LEA began in April. Teachers have been working without a contract since Aug. 31.
Meeting with mediator: Federal mediators were called in August to assist in negotiations. Negotiators will meet with the mediator one more time before the strike deadline, on Saturday.
The union has hoped there could be an agreement without disrupting the pupils' schedule, Russo said. But, she added, the district failed to meet a November deadline to file a counterproposal.
Schools Superintendent Richard Buchenic declined to comment this morning, but said he and the board of education would issue a statement after tonight's board meeting.
Pointing out the positive: Russo said this week should be focused more on positive things, with Lowellville showing an eight-point increase on the state 2002 "report card" that ranks school systems based on 27 performance indicators. The results were released by the Ohio Department of Education on Monday.
Russo pointed out that Lowellville ranked third among public schools in Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties and improved over the 2001 score more than any other school, tying with the Bloomfield-Mesopotamia district.
However, Russo said, Lowellville has the lowest average teacher salary among districts in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.
The district sits seventh out of 14 districts in Mahoning County in base salary for teachers with a bachelor's degree, says the 2001 Education Report of the Ohio Public Expenditure Council. Lowellville teachers start out at about $24,035 while starting salary in Canfield, which tops the list, is $25,803.
Lowellville ranked last in its average teacher salary of $34,307.

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