DALLAS TWP. — Clarke Bittner wants the Dallas Education Association to replace attorney John Holland and Michael Cherinka from their union leadership roles, and hopefully, then contract negotiations will move forward.
“You as a group (Dallas Education Association) should get together as a group and kick his (Holland) ___ back to Harrisburg,” Bittner, a former school board member said at the Dallas School Board meeting Oct. 9. “Cherinka does not have a vested interest in Dallas; he lives in what - Forty Fort or Old Forge or something like that.
“Get together as a union and get them out; choose one of your own to negotiate with this fine group of people.”
Neither Holland, of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, or union president Cherinka were present at Monday’s meeting to hear the comments of Bittner and other residents who urged both the school board and union to sit down and hash out details of the expired teachers’ contract.
Dallas School District solicitor Vito DeLuca said the school board and union scheduled two negotiation meetings, one at 4 p.m. Oct. 11 and a second at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 16.
“I ask that you meet tomorrow (Oct. 11) that you negotiate,” taxpayer Sherri Waslick said. “That you take what needs to be worked on and go back and forth in a meeting and say, ‘hey this is where we need to get to.’”
The Dallas Education Association has worked without a valid contract since August 2015. Negotiations, which began in 2014, reached an impasse on issues of salary, healthcare, pensions and early retirement.
As a result, the union went on a 22-day strike in November 2016. The remainder of the 2016-17 school year was marred by threats of a second strike.
The negotiation stalemate continued into the 2017-18 school year. Teachers went on a seven-day strike starting Friday, Sept. 22.
The union is threatening to strike again on Nov. 22.
“There is only a handful of people at these negotiation meetings, and the majority of people are left out in the dark,” said Joanna Cunningham, a parent. “That leaves a problem of no transparency. So nobody has the ability to say what you should or shouldn’t be doing, and no one has the ability understand the (school) budget.
“But what we do have the ability to say is that we want you at the (negotiating) table much more often than you are,” Cunningham added. “You are meeting once a week, but it needs to happen every day.”
The school board is being transparent and posts all negotiation meeting minutes, which includes a list of who attends the meetings, offers made by the district and received by the union on the district’s website, www.dsdhs.com, DeLuca said.
The school board wants to meet as frequently as possible, he said.
Also, DeLuca added the school board offered to enter into non-binding arbitration twice, but the union refused.
Non-binding arbitration requires both sides agreeing to let a third party mediator review proposals and develop an offer. Both the union and district would have to agree to the new plan to enact it.
If either party refuses, the negotiation process starts again.
In other news, resident Sherri Waslick asked the board if it is reconsidering the food service provider.
“Do you have any intentions of taking the offers from the advertisement you put in the papers to reconsider who our food service is going to be?” Waslick asked.
In the summer, the board awarded a bid to Southwest Foodservice Excellence, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, to replace Metz Culinary Management Inc., of Dallas, as the district’s food service provider from Sept. 6 through Nov. 30.
“There is an RFP (request for proposals) out and the board will review each proposal and make recommendations,” DeLuca said.
The contract would be valid from Dec. 1 through the end of the school year, he said.
“It also said that this food service provider (SFE) would come in and do after school activities; how will that take away from our sports organizations that handle all of that currently?” Waslick asked.
Palfey said the after-school program was geared for students who stay after school hours to participate in sports or other activiies and want a sandwich to hold them over until they get home at 7 p.m.
“It was not meant to compete with any group,” Palfey said. “If it does compete with any group, that is a by-product of a need that we felt we had for our students.”
The next scheduled meeting of the Dallas School Board is slated for 7 p.m. Nov. 13 in the administration building.