UNION TWP. – A 7-1 vote by the Northwest Area School Board to reject the proposed teachers’ contract agreement Wednesday night was met with applause – and a few mumbled curse words.
All board members were present with the exception of Michael Kreidler and Gerald Conger. Conger voted by telephone.
With a microphone pointed at the phone, which was placed at Conger’s seat at the table, his words sounded garbled at first. But after the board asked him to repeat his decision, his “no” to not reject the proposed agreement came through loud and clear. He gave no other comment.
Board members who voted against the agreement were: Daryl Morgan, Kelly Jenkins, Albert Gordon, Michael Pegarella, Robert Hagenbach, Charles Brace and Peter Lanza.
“It is simply not acceptable,” Morgan said.
“My whole point is affordability. We simply cannot afford this contract,” Lanza said.
Jenkins and Gordon said they rejected the agreement because it would “bankrupt the district.”
“This contract, as a whole, is not fair to the taxpayers,” Hagenbach added.
Because an agreement had already been reached between the two sides – only after court-ordered negotiations had taken place – the vote was a surprise to most.
Teachers have been working without a contract since 2005.
“The fund balance right now cannot pay for it,” Pegarella said.
The public was given the opportunity to comment on the issue before the vote was taken. Denise Maurer was the only one who spoke.
“Can I ask a question?” she asked from the back of the room. Board solicitor Richard Galtman said only comments, not questions, were allowed. “This is not a press conference,” he said.
As soon as the board voted and gave their reasons for the vote, a group of people quickly left the meeting and refused to comment. After the meeting, Maurer said she understood why the board voted against the agreement.
“They’re trying to do their best for the district,” she said. “That’s what their job is. If we can’t afford to pay the teachers, and this district goes bankrupt, what good does it do to anyone?”
Maurer, who has two children in the district, said, “I was hoping it would be settled, but if you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it.”