September 1, 2013
BPFT, BPSD Begins Fact-Finding
The Bethel Park Federation of Teachers received word following negotiations on August 21 that the district requested fact-finding, a process that had been completed in the spring of 2012 but failed to result in a contract with both sides rejecting the recommendation. The fact-finder has been appointed and the process will involve both sides presenting a proposal.
School Board President, Donna Cook, commented at the board meeting on August 27 that the District had brought several proposals to the union's negotiating team for consideration, but it is only the negotiating team that can share a proposal with their membership. The BPFT negotiating team is not aware of what "proposals" to which she refers. The last true table position was presented to the members a year ago. After much prodding throughout the 2012-2013 year for a table position, the district did present a table position in May 2013 but included a clause that they reserve the right to submit a proposal for class size pending the decision by the arbitrator which has not yet been received. You cannot vote on "parts" of a proposal. It must be done as a comprehensive document; therefore, by not including the unresolved Class Size issue, a vote could not be taken prior to the start of the 2013-2014 school year.
This past summer there were no table positions offered by the district. The mediator requested that he "mediate" and went back and forth between sides sharing possibilities, “if this ... then can you..." The four summer sessions were all sidebar discussions which are not official positions because they are contingent upon other articles being negotiated and cannot be brought forth for voting until all outstanding articles are addressed in an official package. That did not occur. The summer sessions were spent discussing economics/benefits. There was no new table position offered by the District.
The district states at their monthly meetings that they will not negotiate in public, yet they make comments that are inaccurate and lead members to believe that the federation’s negotiating team members are not forthright. There is no reason for the team to withhold information from its members. The federation's negotiating team members, all active teachers in the district, do not get paid for their time as negotiators and also have a stake in this process. All BPFT members want a contract that does not result in the loss of teaching positions, does not eliminate class size maximums, and does not result in a net loss of salary based on the expired contract (2010).
Mrs. Rose is quoted in the Almanac (August 28, 2013) as saying, "The district is eager to get this resolved and we believe that fact-finding will help us move off center and keep the momentum moving forward." We believe the objective for negotiations is for each side to move towards the center. By moving towards the center, progress will be possible. In negotiations, when one side is the only one moving towards the center, you cannot expect the end result to be fair or balanced.
In an article on August 30, The Pittsburgh Tribune Review identified Bethel Park Teachers as having the ninth lowest average salary in Allegheny County (PA portal lists 45 school districts in Allegheny County). Every other district is under the same state economic constraints, so why are the surrounding districts able to settle contracts that are fair for the teachers and the communities and not take 4 years to do so? The statement by a BP board member at a public meeting that they have offered the teachers a “lucrative” proposal is preposterous.
Although the teachers in Bethel Park are the ninth lowest paid in Allegheny County, The Pittsburgh Business Times 2013 ranked Bethel Park School District #13 out of 104 school districts in a seven county area.
The professional staff, secretaries, and paraprofessional/aide staff members continue to do an outstanding job even during this difficult situation. All three units listed above will begin classes on Tuesday, September 3 without a contract.