DALLAS TWP. — The Dallas Education Association members are “not happy” but “standing strong together,” the union president said Friday — the first day of a teachers strike.
Nearly 98 percent of the union’s members participated in the strike, said Michael Cherinka, Dallas Education Association president.
About 160 union members congregated in a dirt lot off Conyngham Avenue, across from the district’s administration building at 8:30 a.m.
They started picketing at 9:15 a.m. and walked along Conyngham Avenue to Hildebrandt Road, past Dallas Elementary School and back again carrying signs that read “Please negotiate in good faith” and “Fair Contract Now.”
“We are here for us, the children and their families,” Cherinka said. “Children can not learn in freezing or hot conditions.”
He said all district buildings, “even the castle on the hill,” have problems.
“The middle school is loaded with problems such as leaky windows and roof,” Cherinka said.
His claim is backed by John Holland, regional field director for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, who said the teachers endure environmental and safety issues, including mold.
At the July school board meeting, Alloy 5, the district’s architect firm presented a plan to replace the middle school’s roofs starting with a 10,854 -square-foot area over the auditorium, which was slated for completion the end of August, according to a July 10, board update.
Last year, Dallas Elementary School’s leaky roof caused a mold issue in two classrooms, which were immediately sealed off and treated.
The 45-year-old building is plagued a variety of deficiencies that include problems with the heating and cooling systems, a leaky roof and plumbing problems to name a few.
Replacing Dallas Elementary School was the topic of an Act 34 hearing held Monday, Sept. 18.
Other union contract sticking points are salaries, pensions, healthcare and early retirement.
On Thursday night, both parties met in a final attempt come up with a contract and avoid Friday’s strike but failed.
Currently, no new negotiation meetings are scheduled, Holland said Friday.
In November 2016, teachers went on a 22-day strike, which exceeded the return-to-class date of Dec. 13, set by the state Department of Education.
The state Department of Education determines the length of a strike, and as of Friday morning a date was not set, Holland said.
Under state law, teachers can strike twice in one school year. The first strike must end in time for the district to complete the state-mandated 180 days of school by June 15, while a second strike must end in time to complete 180 days instructional days by June 30.
The length of the current strike has not been determined.
Dallas School District teachers met in a lot across from the administration building and Wycallis Elementary School on Conyngham Avenue in Dallas Township on Friday.
John Holland, regional field director for the Pennsylvania State Education Association, said the union and Dallas School District do not have any new negotiation meetings scheduled as of Friday morning.
On Friday, Dallas Education Association members walked a picket line as a result of failed contract negotiations.
Dallas Education Association members took their lack of contract grievance to the streets on Friday.
Dallas Area teachers walk the picket line Friday morning. Aimee Dilger | Times Leader