HERMITAGE SCHOOLS Dispute will go to arbitration

Two additional dates are scheduled if needed.
HERMITAGE, Pa. -- The Hermitage School Board and its teachers will present their sides of a contract dispute to a three-member arbitration panel May 9.
The panel, chaired by Dr. William Caldwell of the American Arbitration Association, will meet at noon in the board meeting room of Artman Elementary School.
Additional dates of June 5 and 6 have been scheduled if more time to present the case is required.
The other members of the panel are Atty. Roger Shaffer Jr. of Hermitage representing the school board and George Hughes, a field office manager with the Pennsylvania State Education Association, representing the teachers.
The panel is required to come up with a recommendation for settling a contract for the district's 165 teachers but its recommendation isn't binding on either side.
If it is rejected, the teachers could strike again.
That isn't likely for this school year, as the last day of classes is June 14.
Could strike in the fall
However, they could strike at the start of classes in the fall if a settlement isn't reached by then.
The teachers did strike for seven days in March but were ordered back on the job by the state Department of Education so the district could complete 180 days of classroom education by June 15.
The state law governing teacher negotiations gives the department that power.
Money is the stumbling block to settling contract negotiations which started in January 2001. The old pact expired June 30, 2001, and the teachers have worked the entire school year under an extension of that agreement.
The teachers were last seeking an average annual pay increase of $2,700 while the school board was offering annual raises of $1,600.

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