Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Teachers Strike Embroils E. Allegheny Tensions Flare at School Board Meeting after 2nd Day of Picketing

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Teachers Strike Embroils E. Allegheny Tensions Flare at School Board Meeting after 2nd Day of Picketing

Article excerpt

A banging gavel trying to reel in a rowdy crowd at the East Allegheny school board meeting could hardly be heard over teachers - who had stood all day on the picket line - cheering for their allies.

Today, those teachers enter their second day of picketing following a contract dispute with the board, focusing mainly on teacher salaries, with no end in sight.

"Do you see my hair? I'm not cutting it" until there's a resolution, superintendent Roger D'Emidio said after the meeting Tuesday night.

It'll grow down to his ankles, he expects.

For the district to offer 180 days of instruction by June 15, 2015, the strike can last until Sept. 23, with teachers returning the next day, state education department spokesman Tim Eller said.

Despite the strike, some after-school activities continue. Coaches who are not teachers are holding activities, and teachers who coach cannot participate, school board president Gerri C. McCullough said. Volunteers are also helping, as in the case of the band, which has a large booster club and parents with clearances.

On Tuesday morning, dressed in blue T-shirts, all 133 teachers held signs in support of their union at four sites, including both entrances to the campus and along Route 30, organizers said. Some students marched alongside their teachers. Members of the community brought food and drinks for the picketers.

"We all want to be there for our kids," Cheryl Ihnat, East Allegheny Education Association president, told reporters Tuesday, "but simultaneously it is our livelihood, as well."

Despite efforts in the past week, including a Friday evening session, the association and board have failed to agree on the terms of a new contract. The teachers have worked without a contract since 2012.

Ms. Ihnat said Tuesday morning that she provided Mr. D'Emidio written details of the union's latest proposal for a five-year contract that includes a 2-year pay freeze. It was discussed - but not formally proposed - during talks on Friday, she said.

In that plan, the union suggests pay freezes in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years, and a step movement on the salary scale in the second half of the third work year. …

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