AMBRIDGE, Pa. - Negotiations between the teachers' union and the Ambridge Area School District's board could not be agreed upon Monday night, and the district's 190 teachers went on strike Tuesday.
Classes were canceled for approximately 2,600 students after Monday’s three-hour meeting working to make a deal between the teacher’s union and the district. Teachers said they were prepared for contract talks to last into the night, but the district ended the meeting around 9 p.m.
According to the school district’s website, the district’s contract with the Ambridge Area Education Association expired June 30, 2015. Months of bargaining have not resulted in an agreement being reached.
Wages and health care benefits are among the key issues in the ongoing contract negotiations, according to district officials. Teachers said they proposed a last-minute health care concession in an attempt to avoid a strike.
“We proposed that we double our health care contributions. We were trying to give something back. We don't want to be out here, we would rather be in the classroom,” Chris Konkus, of the Ambridge Area Education Association, said.
Parents are now forced to make arrangements for their children during regular school hours.
“Parents now have to deal with day care and have to move their schedules and work schedules around to take care of their families,” Jordan Voloch said.
The school district released the following statement on its website following Monday night’s meeting:
“The Ambridge Area School District is sorry to report that there will be no school for students beginning tomorrow, Tuesday, December 13, 2016 due to a teacher work stoppage. Under state law the Department of Education will determine the date on which the strike must end. We anticipate that date to be during the first week of January, 2017. The District will keep you posted on the district website. It is our goal to resolve this matter as quickly as is possible.”
A message from acting Superintendent Joseph Dimperio and school board President Scott Angus was posted online earlier Monday. The message said, in part:
“The Ambridge Area School Board and District leadership stand united in ensuring that any teachers' contract reflects the District's financial means. We understand that many students, parents, caregivers -- and even teachers -- are frustrated and confused about why this negotiating impasse occurred. We are committed to providing transparent communication during any strike that suspends school.”
During a Dec. 7 school board meeting, Angus delivered the following statement, in which he called the union’s demands outrageous:
“We have a flat tax base and our taxpayers already are burdened with the highest millage rate in the County. Our benefits, namely health insurance, are some of the best deals in the world. Today, our teachers pay only $25 a month for full family coverage. Just as we balance our own family checkbooks, each of us on this board believes we must stand as responsible stewards and make sure the district operates within its means. The board cannot and will not bend to the union’s outrageous demands.”
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