Penn Hills teachers say up to 80 could lose jobs

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Penn Hills teachers say up to 80 could lose jobs

Post  HopefulInPh on Sat Mar 06, 2010 7:38 pm

Penn Hills teachers say up to 80 could lose jobs

By Tony LaRussa
Saturday, March 6, 2010

Buzz up!

The Penn Hills teachers' union has learned up to 80 of its members could be laid off.

Butch Santicola, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Education Association, said the union was notified of the Penn Hills School District's plans during a bargaining session Wednesday night as the two sides attempt to come to terms on a new contract.

"Our understanding is that between 60 and 80 teachers will be laid off," Santicola said. "The announcement was a bit of a shock to us. We feel it's going to have a devastating effect on class size."

Penn Hills' 415 teachers have been working under the terms of their old contract since Aug. 31. Teachers went on strike for four days in February over salary and benefits.

Richard Liberto, the district's director of business affairs, said while school officials are "discussing" layoffs, no decision has been made on how many teachers will be let go.

He blamed declining enrollment for the layoffs.

"Since April 2008, we've lost 561 students, and the projection is for enrollment to continue to decline by about 3 to 4 percent a year," Liberto said. The district has 4,496 students.

He said the size of classes would not be affected by the layoffs and remain at between 20 and 24 students per class.

Layoffs will be done based on seniority, as outlined in the union's old contract, Liberto said. Seniority also will determine who is recalled to fill openings created by retirements or resignations.

Lack of progress toward a contract prompted both sides to agree Wednesday to enter into a process known as fact-finding.

A neutral third party picked by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board will gather information and issue a nonbinding recommendation within 40 days, according to a statement issued by negotiators from both sides.

They will have 10 days to review the report and vote whether to accept the recommendations. If either side rejects the findings, the report is made public for 10 days, when a second vote is taken.

Santicola said publicizing the findings is designed to "create pressure" to reach an agreement.

Bruce Campbell, the district's chief negotiator, said if the findings are rejected after a second vote, negotiations "go back to square one."

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