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Punxsutawney teachers strike while other districts talk

Tuesday, August 29, 2000

Teachers in the Punxsutawney Area School District are expected to walk off the job today, making them the first teachers in Western Pennsylvania to conduct a strike this school year.

Meanwhile in Allegheny County, teachers in the Duquesne City School District have a new contract while negotiations continued last night in an attempt to avert a walkout in Bethel Park on Thursday. In the Moon Area School District, teachers and administrators reached a preliminary contract agreement last night after 10 hours of negotiations.

    Plum school may not open in time

There is a chance that Oblock Junior High School in Plum will not open its doors tomorrow. The building which is undergoing renovations and additions must pass a Labor and Industry Inspection before classes can resume. An inspector will decide by 3 p.m. today if the building meets all safety requirements.

Plum Borough School District has devised two contingency plans in case the building does not pass inspection, but Superintendent George Cooke refused to release details. Phone calls will be made directly to the parents of junior high school pupils if the building has to remain closed.


Today would have been the first day of classes for the 3,100 students in the Punxsutawney Area district in Jefferson County.

Edward McGinnis, president of the school board, and Bob Sloaf, president of the Punxsutawney Area Education Association, said extracurricular and athletic activities will continue during the walkout.

The district's 231 teachers have been working without a contract since their previous agreement expired June 30, 1999.

Pay raises have been the main stumbling block in contract talks. The average salary for the teachers is $46,800.

Sloaf also charged district negotiators with being unwilling to meet regularly to reach a settlement.

No new contract talks have been scheduled.

The new contract approved by the Duquesne City school board on a 6-3 vote earlier this month is a five-year extension with the Duquesne Education Association's 83 teachers.

The agreement, which is effective retroactively to June 30 and expires June 29, 2005, ends almost a year of negotiations, district Business Manager Dennis Cmar said.

Highlights include a 3.5 percent wage increase, two pay days per month instead of one, and changes to the reimbursement rates for additional class periods required during the school day or afterward for clubs, activities or student remediation.

Union President Linda Kavish said she was happy with the extension because it continues "the fair contract already in place" and allows the district to move forward educationally. Monetary issues were the only negotiated points.

School Directors Dan Burns, Seth McAllister and Mark Nemerovsky voted against the extension.

In Bethel Park, where teachers who have been without a contract since 1999 went on strike for 10 days in March, parents and teachers staged separate demonstrations outside school district offices last night, where negotiators were meeting.

The talks were continuing late last night.

In Moon Area, teachers will report to school tomorrow and classes will resume for students on Sept. 5.

Board member Mark Scappe said he could not discuss the details of the preliminary agreement until it is formally drafted, approved and signed by both parties.

The teachers contract expired June 30.

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