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Saucon Valley School Board accepts fact-finder's report in teacher contract impasse

HELLERTOWN, Pa. - Saucon Valley Education Association teachers could have a new contract in hand Friday following the Saucon Valley School Board's approval of an independent fact-finder's report during a Thursday night meeting.

School directors voted by a 7-2 margin to accept the report of the neutral fact-finder, who was appointed by the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board in September to help end the lingering impasse. Terms of the potential contract could not immediately be made public, due to state laws.

Directors Sandra Miller and Eric Adams cast dissenting votes.

The 189-member teachers union, which was meeting Thursday night, has the option to accept or reject the fact-finding report. Teachers can accept the report and have a contract or reject it and have another 10 days to reconsider.

Saucon Valley teachers have been working without a contract since a four-year pact expired in June, 2012. Teachers were not allowed to strike during the fact-finding process.

The fact-finders report will be made public on the state Labor Board's web site should teachers reject it, according to school board solicitor Mark Fitzgerald.

School directors appeared both exasperated and relieved that the nearly two-year process was close to an end.

"We've been working on this for nearly two years and I'm tired," said school board director Edward Inghrim. "The contract certainly isn't everything I'd like to see and it isn't what the association wants to see. I acknowledge the fact that both sides moved. Everyone wants to see the end to this process."

Inghrim is the chairman of the school board's negotiating committee.

School director Bryan Eichfeld, who said the proposed contract was in the three-to-four year range and that concessions were made, expressed frustration with the process.

"We need some sort of change. It's ludicrous that we negotiate this in private and the public can't see it," he said.

Adams, who voted against the proposal, said it was "not in the best interest of the community."

Saucon Valley teachers received wage increases of 3.525, 3.625, 3.725 and 3.825 percent in its now-expired contract.

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