Coatesville teachers present petition with 2K signatures to CASD board

By Lauren Parker, News Editor, The Times

School board members Ann Wuertz, Dean Snyder and superintendent Dr. Cathy Taschner, listening to public comment during Tuesday’s meeting.

CALN – Another tumultuous school board meeting of the Coatesville Area School district was held Tuesday, during which, the primary focus was yet again on contract negotiations with the Coatesville Area Teachers Association, who has been working without a contract for just over six months.

As promised, school board president Dean Snyder made a formal statement on behalf of the board, in response to the Coffee with CATA meeting that was held over the weekend.

“Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend,” Snyder began, quoting Greek philosopher Theophrastus.

“The time spent between teacher and student can make the difference between struggling in school and enjoying school. We know just how committed our teachers are to their students and to the success of the schools in which they teach everyday.”

Snyder went on to cite specific items that are stalling negotiations, such as time and the district’s limited ability to control the teacher workday, along with issues surrounding salary and benefits. By the district’s estimate, a difference of $10 million divides CATA and CASD in wages and health care costs.

“It is no secret that our district is not wealthy, nor are our taxpayers…in spite of this, everyday we do what we can to live our educational mission statement: Rich in diversity and committed to excellence.”

Snyder also stated that difficult financial decisions have been made over the past two years; salaries have been standardized at the administrative level and administrative positions have been cut, he also referenced transforming a negative fund balance and improving the district’s bond rating.

“As many of you know, CATA has requested fact-finding…we are pleased that CATA has initiated this process and are hopeful that a resolution is on the horizon.” Snyder stated.

Snyder explained that fact-finding involves the assignment of a neutral third party by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board to examine the proposals from both sides and provide a recommended contract. The school board and CATA are then given an opportunity to accept or reject the fact-finding recommendations in their entirety, however if rejected, the recommendations can serve as guidelines for new negotiations and potentially a settlement.

Finally, Snyder said the district will be increasing their communication efforts and announced there is a new section on the website called “Negotiation Updates” and plans to continue issuing press releases to ensure that members of the community understand the process.

As a result of the nomination committee for the CASD board of directors and CATA being unable to reach an agreement in their negotiations, Audra Ritter, president of CATA, presented the school board with more than 2,000 signatures from community members within the school district, requesting a fair and equitable contract for the teachers.

Members of the Coatesville Area Teachers Association, dressed in blue as a sign of unity for the meeting.

“Tonight, we present the school board with a petition that has been signed by over 2,000 teachers and community members, supporting the teachers and asking the board to quickly settle a fair and competitive contract,” Ritter said, “So all of us can move forward and continue to provide our students with the excellent education they have always had and deserve to get.”

Ritter also stated that the board has submitted two proposals since the negotiations began over a year ago; one in March and the second one in November. According to Ritter, the second proposal “moved the other way” and instead of closing the gap, it actually moved both sides further apart.

More than a dozen people signed up to speak during public comment and raised issues such as losing quality teachers over the past two years, due to the work environment and the higher salaries that are offered in neighboring districts.

“In my opinion, things are spiraling downward in the district,” said Tony Scheivert, a resident in the district. “Not giving the teachers a fair contract will force other great teachers to leave.

Scheivert also referenced a Facebook post in which school board member Tom Siedenbuehl claimed “ the teachers are just in it for the money” and disputed that post by pointing out that they are the lowest paid teachers in the district in the county. He then gave an example of teachers’ dedication to their students by describing an email sent by his daughter’s ELA teacher at 6:30 a.m. on a recent day off.

“That is something that someone who is in it just for the money, does not do.” Scheivert said.

“I stand here before you tonight to implore you to come to the table with a fair and equitable contract for our teachers,” said Joy Stewart, a Coatesville alumna. “In the past several years, we have lost quality teachers to neighboring school districts. I do not want to see the children in this district lose one more hard working teacher.”

Stewart went on to say, “We are the Coatesville Area School District. The teachers and students deserve a fair and professional atmosphere…the teachers deserve a fair contract and as taxpayers, we demand that you negotiate a fair and equitable contract.”














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