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Pleasant Valley teachers' union table strike as parties work towards tentative agreement

Union officials have taken the planned teachers' strike at Pleasant Valley School District off the table until further notice.

The strike date had been authorized for February 28.

Pleasant Valley teachers have been working under an expired contract since the summer and have been negotiating since January of 2021.

Drew Dymond, President of Pleasant Valley Education Association said there has been enough progress in order to stave off the strike, "so we went ahead and cancelled it and are still working towards a tentative agreement, which we are hopeful will occur very soon."

The union association and teachers gathered for an informational picketing rally on Nov. 18, 2021 and authorized a strike date of Feb. 28 if an agreement was not reached by that time.

According to school board president Susan Kresge, the parties have made significant progress toward finalizing a new collective bargaining agreement. Both the board and the PVEA met on Thursday Feb. 24 for approximately 7 hours and then again the following day for over another 7 hours as the strike date loomed over the weekend.

"On behalf of the board, I am glad a strike was averted due to these discussions," Kresge said. "I am anxious for the parties to finalize some of the outstanding issues in the next couple of weeks. Once we reach a tentative agreement the parties will schedule a vote on the contract. I anticipate the final vote will not occur for a couple of weeks at the earliest."

There have been multiple 7-hour long negotiating sessions in the past two months that have garnered no agreement and much frustration throughout the district.

Dymond said he's thankful for all the teacher and community support throughout the negotiations and "thankful that we were able to make enough progress to keep Pleasant Valley open and keep our students in their classrooms."

School board solicitor Mark Fitzgerald said that while a strike was taken off the table for now, it doesn't mean it can't be reinstituted in the future.

"While there was notable progress made through these informal discussions, the parties are continuing to work through some of the differences that still exist," Fitzgerald said. "We're hopeful that we're getting close, to the extent that we can continue to bridge some of the gaps that still remain. But I think these informal, off the record discussions between the parties, certainly were productive last week and therefore can be described a success."

There are additional negotiating dates currently scheduled for March 7 and 17, although informal discussions between the parties are ongoing between meetings.

Fitzgerald said he is hopeful that they can finalize a tentative agreement over the next several weeks but also cautioned "the parties ultimately will have to come back and review the total package in order to move forward and formalize an agreement."

East Stroudsburg Area School District and Stroudsburg Area School District also entered the start of their 2021-2022 school years with expired contracts over the summer.

ESASD was faced with an authorized strike threat in the fall while teachers staged a rally on Oct. 18, 2021. By Oct. 19, the district reached an agreement that has since been accepted.

SASD teachers are still working under an expired contract and negotiations are ongoing. According to Superintendent Cos Curry, "they seem closer in some areas, but not in all and so we just have to keep meeting and working though it."

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