Canton board rejects teachers’ contract

CANTON – The school board here on Thursday night rejected, for the second time, a fact-finder’s report that would have resolved teacher contract issues.

After negotiating for a new contract for more than 18 months, the Canton Area School District and its education association have yet to come to an agreement.

The association has notified the school board that it will begin “working to rule,” starting Monday.

In the notification, made available to the Sun-Gazette by the district, it states that members of the association will continue to perform their contracted services and activities but will cease involvement in volunteer activities, including before- and after-school meetings.

“They didn’t want it to come to this point,” said Stu Karschner, Pennsylvania State Education Association representative.

The association agreed to a pay freeze and premium share increase during the 2011-12 school year. They have been operating under the expired contract since June 2012.

The association’s decision comes after the district rejected factfinder Diana S. Mulligan’s report on a resolution to the negotiations. The association accepted the report.

If both parties had accepted the report, it would have acted as a collective bargaining agreement.

The factfinding report states the following items as mutual issues pertaining to negotiations: term of agreement, sick leave, salary schedule, hospitalization and medical insurance, and health room assistant.

A reduction of salary schedule columns, language in its insurance consortium and an excise tax were reported as district issues.

Association issues pertained to hours of work, graduate courses, sick leave incentive plan and tuition for non-resident students.

The factfinder recommended a three-year agreement that would see a step movement and 2.25 percent increase in salaries in 2012-13 – since the previous agreement expired, the new contract would begin in 2012 – and in 2014-15. No increase or step would take place for 2013-14.

Although Karschner said the association was “disappointed” with the lack of increase, it still accepted the report after a long negotiation.

“They’ve been bargaining for over a year and a half and their basic feelings were as long as they weren’t losing money, as long as they were getting a little raise … they’d settle for that,” he said.

Mathew Gordon, superintendent, said the district rejected the report because of the cost to the district.

“Basically, because we didn’t feel we could afford it,” he said on why the report was rejected.

“We were disappointed,” Karschner said. “We thought for sure that they would accept it.”

In the notification it states that Canton, which Gordon called “the poorest school district in Bradford, Sullivan, Lycoming and Tioga counties,” ranks 405 out of 501 state school districts in tax effort.

The association, Karschner said, isn’t looking to “over tax the community” but give the teachers a raise.

Gordon reported that the district is raising its taxes to the Act 1 Index.

Karschner added that he isn’t sure what the district is looking for in negotiations.

“I thought the district would jump all over it. I’m not sure what the district wants. I guess they want a zero salary increase or maybe negative,” he said.

The district wants the teachers to take home less pay, Karschner said.

“I guess we’re back to bargaining,” he said. “This is maddeningly frustrating.

“The teachers are frustrated and many of the people who live in the community are frustrated,” Karschner added.

Attempts were made to speak with Canton school board members Thursday night, but no calls were returned as of presstime.