HERMITAGE SCHOOLS Arbiters work on dispute

Arbitration meetings lasted nearly eight hours.
HERMITAGE, Pa. -- Another arbitration session in an effort to resolve the Hermitage school district teachers contract dispute will be June 5 and, if necessary, continue into June 6, and a nonbinding arbitrator's recommendation is expected shortly thereafter, said Superintendent Karen Ionta.
A 71/2 hour arbitration session Thursday included teachers and the school administration meeting both together and separately with the three-member arbitration panel.
The panel chairman is William Caldwell of the American Arbitration Association, who will deliver the contract recommendation for the board and teachers to vote on.
The teachers struck for seven days in March, but were ordered back to work by the Pennsylvania Department of Education to enable the district to complete 180 days of classes by June 15.
Is another strike likely?
After Caldwell delivers his recommendation, the teachers could strike again if the dispute isn't resolved, but Ionta said she believes another teachers strike is unlikely this school year.
"We have all summer to continue with negotiations to hopefully resolve the issues," Ionta said. The last day of classes is June 14. The 165 teachers are working under an extension of a contract that expired June 30, 2001.
Ionta said the school board is standing by its offer of pay raises of $1,617, $1,581 and $1,595, respectively, in each of the three years of a contract that would be retroactive to last June 30. Teachers have been seeking $2,700 annual pay increases. The average teacher earns $47,393 a year.
The other arbitration panel members are Atty. Roger Shaffer Jr. of Hermitage, representing the school board, and George Hughes, a Pennsylvania State Education Association field manager, representing the teachers.

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