Perkiomen Valley teachers could strike Tuesday

Posted: February 26, 2011

Teachers in the Perkiomen Valley School District intend to strike Tuesday if a resolution is not reached on a contract by 6 p.m. Monday, the school board said Friday.

Teachers in the 5,900-student district in central Montgomery County have been working under an expired contract since Aug. 31.

The state mediator involved in the case, William Cramer, called Thursday for a bargaining session over the weekend to be held at an undisclosed location.

Perkiomen Valley, which serves the Collegeville area, is one of about a dozen districts in the Philadelphia's Pennsylvania suburbs where teachers are working under expired contracts.

State law requires teachers to give 48 hours' notice before going on strike.

Perkiomen negotiations began in January 2010. In October, both parties agreed to a nonbinding fact-finding process. The fact-finder recommended a contract that called for average salary increases of 2.56 percent in the current school year, 3.2 percent the next, and 3.35 percent in the third year, according to the school board.

The board voted to accept the recommendation, but it was rejected by the union, which offered a counterproposal with Monday's deadline.

Under state law, a Perkiomen Valley strike could last up to four school days, according to the district. If there is no agreement by then, the parties would be forced to enter nonbinding arbitration, after which a second strike could follow.

School board president Lynn Bigelow said, "We are trying to balance the need for a fair contract with our teachers with our monetary limitations under Act 1 [which caps property-tax increases] and the anticipated 20 percent reduction in state subsidies. We do not want to enter into an agreement that would severely restrict our ability to offer a fine educational program to our community."

Jeffrey Sultanik, the lawyer representing the school board in the negotiations, said the major unresolved issues included salary, health-care benefits, and tuition reimbursement.

Garreth Heidt, spokesman for the Perkiomen Valley Education Association, which represents 435 teachers, said the union was "very hopeful that during the negotiation session this weekend . . . we will be able to reach a settlement."

"We feel we're very close," he added. "We're just waiting for the board to make a move."

Teachers in Perkiomen Valley went on strike in 2002 for two weeks.


Contact staff writer Adrienne Lu at 215-854-2624 or alu@phillynews.com.

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