Another pact in place until December

The school board and teacher's union are still at loggerheads over a new contract.

The Wayne Highlands School Board and the Wayne Highlands Education Association (WHEA) have been negotiating for eight months but have yet to reach an agreement.

The two sides have once again entered into a "status quo" agreement, which means the teachers will work under the expired contract until a settlement is reached or until something else takes place.

The school board has not voted to approve either of the status quo agreements and Superintendent Greg Frigoletto says that is not necessary.

Frigoletto said the district is "required" to stay under the status quo status according to labor laws in the state of Pennsylvania.

"Labor contracts do not terminate under the expiration date," said Frigoletto. "Employers are required to maintain the status quo ... until such time a new contract is negotiated or until there is a work stoppage."

The last contract, which was for five years, expired on June 30 of this year.

He said the district is "required by law to honor that contract" or they could face violations from the state.

Todd D. Miller, president of the WHEA, said in an email on Wednesday the association members "instructed me to enter into a status quo agreement with the district at our last general membership meeting" of the 2012-13 school year if there was not an agreement in place by June 30.

"We did not, and we signed that agreement pursuant to the instructions given to me as president by the membership."

That agreement was good through this Friday, however, Miller said the WHEA members again authorized him to enter into another agreement, extending the status quo agreement until Dec. 19.

"Again, this was done by the general membership instructions today in a new business item," said Miller.

"Once June 30 passed and we did not have a settlement, in essence, we went into status quo," said Frigoletto.

But in July, Frigoletto, in an interview with this newspaper, said the status quo agreement was "written" and signed by both parties.

No vote from the school board was taken confirming that agreement and one was not taken concerning the latest agreement which lasts through mid-December.

Frigoletto, before Tuesday's regular monthly board meeting, said no vote is necessary.

But Melissa Melewsky, attorney for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, said she thinks the board should vote on the agreement.

She said the agreement is a "legally binding contract" and should be approved by the school board.

"I disagree," said Frigoletto prior to Tuesday night's board meeting.

But Melewsky said Wednesday she thinks the board should take a public vote on the matter.

"The key term here which makes it different is 'time,'" she said. "It's not just a continuation. It's timing."

She said they are putting a certain time limit on the contract and are also agreeing to spend millions of dollars in salaries and benefits.

Melewsky said the district is agreeing to a new timeframe for the old contract, and that should be done by public vote.

"I believe the Sunshine Act applies here," said Melewsky.

She called it "bad public policy" for a school board not to act publicly on an issue as important as a contract. Melewsky said contracts are one of the most important issues a district deals with and they draw a large amount of public interest.

In addition, she said even if the law doesn't apply, which she believes it does in this case, the board should still take a public vote.

"It is a good idea to let the public know what is going on," she said.

The information from both Frigoletto and Miller was received after emails were sent to both of them asking about the status of the negotiations.

Nothing about the negotiations process was discussed at the meeting Tuesday night other than the fact the board went behind closed doors once again to discuss the matter.

Mediation question

Asked about mediation, Frigoletto said because the district and union continue to negotiate, "We have not had mediation set in."

He did say because they are working under the old contract, no pay raises have been implemented this year.

"It would be like a snapshot of what you got last year," he said of the salary schedule. "There is no advancement."

That applies to coaches and all extra-curricular wages, he said.

"We honor the last contract," said Frigoletto.

He did say "if" there is a settlement agreement, that could change. However, he did not speculate if any agreement would be retroactive.

About the ongoing negotiations, he said they have been "consistent. We continue to talk. It has been cordial. We continue to meet. That's about all I can say."

"We will continue to negotiate in the meantime," said Miller.

Public dissent

In another matter, the board heard from local resident Carol Santos, who scolded the board on what she says is their lack of reality.

Santos, who regularly attends board meetings, said she asked the board previously if "you really know your district."

She says they don't.

Santos pointed to the recently printed delinquent taxes section of The Wayne Independent.

"There are 20 pages of unpaid bills," she said.

"Sooner or later, your common sense is going to have to kick in," said Santos.

Santos said a large amount of people in the district are not paying taxes, which shifts the burden to those who do pay their taxes.

She said she has to pay for her health insurance, a mortgage and "I drive a 12 year old car."

Santos said the district continues to fund huge benefits to employees, all at the expense of taxpayers.

"What road are you going down?" said Frigoletto.

Santos said because of the large benefits paid to employees, the taxpayers are suffering. She said some senior citizens have "given up," and some are going to lose their homes.

"I can't afford the employees of this district anymore," she said.

Other business

In other business, the board:

• Approved the girls basketball coaches and advisors for the 2013-14 season.

Edward Martin will be the varsity assistant, Jessica Roberts will be the freshman head coach, Maria Miller will be the eighth grade coach and Jenna Kinzinger will be the seventh grade coach.

• Voted to appoint the following faculty team leaders:

— Wayne Highlands Middle School, Maureen Casazza, English/Language Arts; Timothy Wood, mathematics; Barbara Rodda, science; Donald Cook social studies; and Christopher Piasecki, special areas.

— Stourbridge Primary Center, Lisa Corcoran, head teacher.

— Damascus Elementary, Peter Casazza, head teacher; Catherine Phillips, elementary; Nancy Wood, middle school.

— Preston Elementary, Kyle Curtis, head teacher; Colleen Judge, elementary; and Kim Skinner, middle school.

— Lakeside Elementary, Micheal Miller, head teacher; Cathleen Keen, math team leader; Lindsey Pender, reading team leader.

• Accepted the low quote from Gloria Haun for Wayne Highlands Middle School field trips. The mileage rate is $2.69 and the short trip rate is $68.

• Granted child rearing leave to Michelle Walsh from Aug. 26 to approximately Nov. 10.

• Accepted the resignation of Teri Tridente, paraeducator/personal care assistant at Lake School, effective immediately.

• Approved a change order in the amount of $525 for the Preston blacktop and tennis court project. The change order is to purchase four additional posts.

• Heard a report from business manager Jeff Firmstone, who said for the first time, the district has taken two families to court for not paying for lunches last year.

He said the district has sent multiple letters, made phone calls and other attempts to collect the debt. The cases are in a magistrate's court.