Dallastown Area teachers take contract dispute to the people

Meredith Willse
York Dispatch

With only a few weeks left before the school year starts, Dallastown Area's school board and educators are still trying to hammer out a new teacher contract. 

The Dallastown Area Education Association is holding a rally from 1 to 2 p.m. today at the high school and middle school campus and has invited community members to attend and show support for the teachers, according to association president Ellen Connelly. 

Connelly, who started with the district as a student teacher in 1987, said she hopes the rally will help teachers’ morale as they prepare for the new school year. 

Contract negotiations began in 2019 before the 2015-20 contract expired, according to the association. After 2020, the teachers continued to work under the terms of the expired deal.

The two sides agreed in March 2021 to a “retroactive collective bargaining agreement.” The agreement included a salary freeze for that school year and a 1.25% increase for the past school year.

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The organizations began bargaining again in January, but haven’t reached an agreement. They will meet again at 2 p.m. today.

“Now we’re on another expired contract,” Connelly said, adding the last time this happened was in 1992. 

Connelly noted the association agreed to many of the board's terms but had a few more items that will be discussed today and hopefully worked out. 

Teacher Ellen Connelly sits at her desk at Dallastown Area Middle School Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2021. She was discussing changes in her teaching routine due to the pandemic. Bill Kalina photo

Dallastown Area School Board President Anthony Pantano also said he hopes the two sides settle soon. He said the biggest sticking points are salary, health care and retiree health care benefits.

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About 42% of the district’s teachers are at the top of the salary scale and earning more than $100,000, he added.

Pantano said the association requested an arbitrator in the spring, and one was assigned by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board. The arbitrator proposed a settlement that the board unanimously approved but the association did not, he added.

If the district and association can't come to an agreement, the association will have to meet to decide how to proceed, Connelly said.

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“It’s the reality," she said. "We need to be prepared.”

The pandemic upending the learning process, and teachers need to be focused on the children, Connelly said.

“It will be another difficult year to close the gaps for students,” she said, adding teachers shouldn't have to worry about their contract as well. 

— Reach Meredith Willse at mwillse@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.