Picketing Pioneers: Teachers unify at school board meeting

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Brief by Betty Ben Dor, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Photos by Betty Ben Dor and Neil Goldenthal, Co-Editor-in-Chief and Multimedia Editor

Amid ongoing contract negotiations between the Tredyffrin-Easttown Education Association (TEEA) and the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District (TESD), 323 teachers from across the eight district schools showed up in solidarity at Monday night’s regular school board meeting.

The teachers’ previous contract expired on June 30, 2017 and the two sides have yet to agree on a new one.

Gathering an hour before the start of the meeting, the teachers lined up in front of Conestoga High School, wearing matching white TEEA shirts, waving signs with statistics about the district’s rankings and slogans such as “Why is it Taking So Long to Negotiate A New Contract?” and chanting “We are worth it.”

Before opening up the floor for public comment, School Board President Doug Carlson outlined the district’s negotiations goals as: “to ensure the sustainable success of T/E’s strong educational programs, to provide fair compensation and benefits to T/E’s employees (and) to respect the financial impact to district taxpayers.”

TEEA President and Conestoga Physics teacher Dr. Robert Desipio began the public comment portion of the night with a speech, urging the district to work towards settling on a contract that is fair. He pointed to the district’s consistently high rankings, both locally and nationally, as an indicator of the teachers’ success.

“It is truly unfortunate that we have reached this impasse in our negotiations,” Desipio said. “Our teachers are a prudent and good investment for this district and do deserve a fair contract.”

Several other community members, including parents, school board candidates, current students and alumni, came out in support of the teachers, speaking about the important impact they have made on their children or on themselves. Comments were also made regarding the importance of ensuring that the negotiations will not result in a burden on the district’s taxpayers.

At this stage, the school district and TEEA have entered into the fact-finding process, a procedure in which the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board assigns a neutral third-party person to examine the positions of both sides and make recommendations for a settlement. Carlson said that the fact-finding process is estimated to end around early November. Until its completion, the teachers’ union cannot go on strike.

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Betty can be reached at [email protected]
Neil can be reached at [email protected]