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Strike scheduled at Forbes Road nixed in final moments

December 3, 2018

A teacher strike that had been scheduled for Thursday was averted at Forbes Road Career and Technology Center in Monroeville.

Minutes before the strike was to go into effect at 12:01 a.m. Thursday, Pennsylvania State Education Association spokesman Matt Edgell said the 30 teachers at the school agreed to postpone a strike after a mediator intervened.

“The Bureau of Mediation asked us to postpone the strike under the condition that there is a concerted effort on the bureau’s part to facilitate the bargaining process,” said George Karnbauer, a computer and networking teacher, president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association unit at Forbes Road.

The union membership overwhelmingly authorized a work-stoppage Oct. 3 after repeated efforts to reach a settlement with the school were unsuccessful. Teachers said they planned to walk a picket line starting at 7:15 a.m. Thursday.

“It’s a very sad occasion,” Karnbauer said. “We want to be in the classroom.”

The vocational and technical school serves more than 700 students, mainly from eight school districts: Allegheny Valley, East Allegheny, Gateway, Highlands, Penn Hills, Plum, Riverview and Woodland Hills.

Well before the last-minute change, Highlands School Board President Debbie Beale said the district’s high school principals put a contingency plan together at least six weeks ago. Parents or guardians of the impacted students were called Wednesday afternoon. Transportation to the home school, activities and classes are scheduled at Highlands.

“This is very sad,” Beale said.

Other districts made similar arrangements.

The vo-tech center is directed by a joint operating committee. Committee Director Frank B. Pearsol and negotiator Bruce Dice, an attorney, were not available for comment Wednesday night.

Representatives of both sides met Wednesday afternoon, but an agreement wasn’t reached then, Karnbauer and some operating committee members said.

The teachers had been scheduled to strike Tuesday but agreed to a 48-hour postponement to allow for the emergency talks the day after the election.

The union said Forbes Road’s 30 teachers have been negotiating 22 months and working under the terms of an expired contract for 14 months.

Allegheny Valley School Board President and operating committee member Larry Pollick said early Wednesday night negotiators are “working hard for a settlement” and more negotiation sessions could be scheduled.

Operating committee member Erin Vecchio, who also is a Penn Hills School Board member, said the teachers’ work is appreciated, but there just isn’t money available to meet their demands.

Neither side would discuss details of the negotiations, nor would they comment on how far apart the sides are on the issues.

Vecchio said Penn Hills teachers agreed to a two-year wage freeze and other school districts are having similar budget problems.

Karnbauer said a possible strike would be a rarity for a vocational-technical school and a first for Forbes if it happens.

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