Keystone Oaks Officials Say School In Session Thursday After Hours Of Negotiations To Avoid Strike

MOUNT LEBANON (KDKA) — After hours of negotiations late into the night and past the midnight deadline, the Keystone Oaks teachers’ union and district reached a tentative deal to avoid a strike.

That means there will be school on Thursday for students in the district.

The Keystone Oaks School District released this statement:

“Following nearly 14 hours of negotiations over the past two days, the Keystone Oaks School District and the Keystone Oaks Education Association have reached a tentative agreement. Classes will be held on Thursday, March 30, 2017.

“Friday, March 31, is a pre-scheduled In-service Day and students will not have classes.

“We are pleased that the district and KOEA were able to come to an agreement that is sustainable, fair and, above all else, puts the students first,” Board President Matt Cesario said. “We look forward to working with the teachers, counselors and nurses to continue to provide a high quality education for all Keystone Oaks students.”

According to the Keystone Oaks Education Association (KOEA), both sides agreed to a one year extension of the previous contract. It dates back to June 30, 2016 and therefore expires on June 30, 2017.

Both sides must ratify the one year deal no later than April 11, 2017.

Brenda Waters’ report:

The teachers and district officials began a negotiation session at 7 p.m. Wednesday and continued meeting past a midnight deadline.

Earlier on Wednesday evening, it appeared the two sides were making progress.

The teachers union had set that midnight deadline, but late Wednesday night said they were willing to stay past that time to try and make it work.

“They handed over a proposal to the school board, and the school board and superintendent are going to deliberate on that for most likely an extensive period of time, and that they are hoping to still get a contract signed before midnight,” said Heather DiGiacomo, a parent. “But if need be, they are going to stay as much time as it takes, and the union president and their negotiators don’t intend on leaving until a contract is signed.”

The union president addressed the crowd after 11 p.m., saying the two sides were going back and forth. However, when asked if they were close, he would not provide an update.

“We’ve gone back and forth several times over some issues,” said Kevin Gallagher, the teachers’ union president. “We’re going to continue to do that. This may, at this point, go past midnight, past the deadline. If this deal is not struck, it is our intent to strike at that time, but we’ll continue to negotiate through the night if needed, up until the start of school [Thursday], but we’re going to keep fighting the fight, both sides continue to discuss issues, and at this point, we’re not really looking at the clock, we’re just trying to get a deal done for everybody involved.”

The union negotiating team was cheered earlier in the day as they walked into the negotiating session.

A total of 185 teachers, counselors and nurses would have hit the picket lines Thursday morning if a deal had not been reached.

For additional updates on the negotiations, agreement and school schedule, visit the district’s website here.

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Earlier Wednesday evening, just before the talks started, a school board member was involved in a disruption at the practice for the school musical.

Mount Lebanon Police confirmed to KDKA that he was escorted to the superintendent’s office.

No charges have been filed, and it’s unclear it the incident was connected to the talks.

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