Going into Thursday night's negotiation session, both school board President Ritchie Webb and Neshaminy Federation of Teachers President Louise Boyd were optimistic for productive bargaining , however, that was not the case.
In a NFT press release, it was stated that negotiations between the NFT and school board broke down quickly when the district "flatly rejected" the NFT’s offer to meet throughout the weekend to hammer out a new contract.
"We told the district that if they had an attitude adjustment and agreed to negotiate throughout the weekend, and they flatly rejected our offer," Boyd said.
“We are bitterly disappointed with the district,” she continued, stating that had the school board "agreed to be more open" to discussing ways to come to a settlement and to meeting throughout the weekend, the union would have "immediately called off the impending strike."
"Given the district’s refusal to meet this weekend, we are left with no other option other than to strike," Boyd said.
The less than three hour long negotiation session included a "surprise guest."
According to a press release from school board President Ritchie Webb, at the direction of the Secretary of Labor as requested by Governor Corbett, the Director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Mediation, William Gross, joined mediator John Cairns for Thursday's session.
Gross's appearance at the meeting, according to the union's press release, is a sign that "the state recognizes how far out of hand this situation has become."
"We’re hopeful that his presence will signal a change," Boyd said.
Both parties sat in the same room for the first 30 minutes of the meeting with the mediators. According to Webb's release, Gross asked the board why they rejected the arbitrator’s report, to which attorney Chuck Sweet gave several explanations, but most notably that the district could not afford it.
In the meeting, Sweet told the mediators that the board and union agreed to 12 items on the arbitrator’s award and hoped that both sides could confirm that night as a demonstration that there was some common ground.
When Gross asked the NFT's team what was needed to prevent another strike, the union's attorney, Tom Jennings, said that the "board needed to change its attitude," as stated in Webb's press release, in addition to stating that Jennings said "the board only cares about its wallet" and "negotiations are a joke."
Boyd also said that the school board "admitted" to having the money to settle the contract, but that "they’re not going to spend it on teachers and educational programs."
After the two sides split off into separate rooms, both mediators moved back and forth into private discussions with each group. Much of the remaining time was spent with each side explaining its position to Gross, Webb said.
"Regrettably, very little negotiation took place," Webb continued, noting that, providing the union is not on strike, the next negotiation session is scheduled for June 12.