DALLAS TWP. — Being a parent of Dallas School District students has not been easy, according to a Back Mountain mother of three.
For the past two school years, families have lived under a constant threat of strikes and tried to explain to their children how adults cannot seem to reach an agreement, the mother said. The teachers’ contract remains unresolved as a new school year edges closer and now the Luzerne County courts are involved.
“We are trying to shape our children’s minds to be independent thinkers,” she said. “It is hard for a child to understand how two groups of grown-ups can’t agree. What example are we setting?”
The mother, whose asked that her name not be used, opened up about the stress the on and off again strikes and stalled negotiations have on her family.
“Taking three years to work something out is unacceptable,” she said. “In the business world, that kind of behavior is unacceptable.”
The Dallas School Board and the Dallas Education Association started negotiating a new contract in 2014. The teachers’ contract expired in August 2015. Three years later, negotiations remain stalled on salary, healthcare contribution and early retirement.
Teachers went on a 22-day strike in November 2016, a seven-day strike in September 2017 and a one-day strike on June 19.
The union’s exercise of its right to strike has driven a wedge in what was once a close community, the mother said. District parents were close and always willing to volunteer to help with programs, she said.
“People are bitter,” she said. “They are spending extra on childcare (as a result of strikes) which has a trickle-down effect. They have less money to go out to dinner or go to the salon.”
At one point in the 2016-17 school year, the teachers were talking with students about the contract issue, specifically how low their wages are compared to other districts, the mother said.
“I was not sure how true their information was,” she said, adding she sat with one of her children and went online to “reliable sources” to see how accurate their salary claims were and reviewed the data with her children.
She held out hope that court-ordered negotiations by Luzerne County Judge William H. Amesbury would result in a resolution.
But that was not the case.
Last week, school attorney Vito DeLuca filed an appeal against the judge’s ruling, stating five of the nine school board members could not maintain the court scheduled meetings from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Friday until July 14. Since an agreement was not reached, negotiations would continue seven days a week, including from noon to 6 p.m. on weekends.
“In previous negotiations, I had up to eight board members in attendance,” DeLuca said, noting the board members are willing to meet with their union and met “last Monday.”
The Times Leader reported on July 18 that union president Michael Cherinka stated the union would still follow Amesbury’s schedule, whether or not anyone from the school board shows up.”
“I don’t want to be in contempt of court,” Cherinka told the Times Leader.
A hearing on DeLuca’s appeal is scheduled for Thursday, July 26, which is past The Dallas Post publication deadline. Check in at mydallaspost.com for coverage.
District residents are watching the court news carefully.
“It is time to end this. It should never have reached this point,” the mother said. “It must be fair for all.”
She admits she sided with the school board since the 22-day strike in 2016, but there must be comprise on both sides.
Teachers have a tough job, she said, adding they have a lot of benefits built into their contract such as tenure.
“They need to contribute to their own health care,” she said.
Property owners, who pay for a portion of their health care, are spending tax dollars to support the district not to pay for someone else’s healthcare, the mother said.
“I don’t think teachers should be an exception,” she said, noting physicians and even U.S. veterans do not receive free healthcare.
The mother even questioned the need for school unions.
“I have friends who are teachers in different states without unions, and they are very happy with their employment,” she said, adding maybe teachers would be more willing to contribute to their health care if they did not have to pay union fees.
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.