McKeesport teachers could return to class without a contract

MCKEESPORT, Pa. — As teachers in the McKeesport Area School District get set to return to the classroom, they could be doing so without a contract.

“It’s been the whole summer. Now we’re at the 11th hour where we can voluntarily report tomorrow, at 7 a.m., 8 a.m., to start setting our rooms up and teachers don’t have a contract,” said Gerald McGrew, the president of the teachers union.

Wednesday night, the school board voted against ratifying a contract that calls for raises between 3% and 6.5% over the next five years.

The teachers union said the district proposed those raises.

“The issue now is the public is going to perceive this as our teachers are money hungry. What they don’t understand is the numbers that were offered to us, which were offered to us, not we came to them, these were the numbers we were given,” McGrew said.

But Wednesday, the board said it cannot afford the raises without a major tax hike and potential teacher furloughs.

“We want to move forward in faith and confidence to assure we are agreeing on something that shows our appreciation for your daily efforts while being financially responsible,” Board President LaToya Wright told the large crowd of teachers in attendance.

The board was initially set to vote on a tentative contract agreement in June, but that vote was tabled.

Several board members blamed the district’s business manager for their need to reconsider.

“A contract was negotiated with ineptitude, and we cannot afford it,” said board member Matthew Holtzman. “Our business manager did not negotiate well. We don’t have the money to cover this.”

Now, with teachers required to report to school on August 17 — and students on August 21 — the teachers union is weighing its next move.

That could mean a strike, a delayed start to the school year, or working without a contract.

The superintendent, Dr. Tia Wanzo, hopes it doesn’t come to that.

“We value our teachers and everything that they bring to our district and the hard work that they do every day. This is not the end result that any of us wanted, so we want for them to get this resolved as quickly as possible,” Wanzo said.

The teachers union plans to meet Thursday night to decide how to proceed.

District leaders say they want to get back to negotiating as soon as possible.

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