First Posted: 5/23/2014
About 15 teachers, led by union president Jim Maria, participated in “informational picketing” prior to the start of the May 21 Abington Heights School Board meeting.
Abington Heights’ teachers have been working without a contract since their last one expired Aug. 31, 2011.
“It’s just part of the process and something we wanted to do to make the community aware of our current situation,” Maria said. “We’d really like to settle this contract. The end of the (school) year is coming up and if things aren’t settled by the fall, I don’t know if we’ll have a very smooth start of the year.
“I would think there is no contract either because the district can’t afford it or because the teacher’s don’t deserve it. We demonstrate that the district, certainly, is financially healthy. We think it’s a very good district and when compared to other districts around here, the compensation is not really on par,” he said.
According to Abington Heights Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Mahon, both sides are committed to reaching an agreement to end the dispute.
“The board and teacher’s union are working very hard to come to a conclusion,” Mahon said. “We are just in the midst of a fact-finding report that was issued and that both sides, I know, are looking at very carefully. My hope is that given the circumstances we face, we’ll be able to work together to come to some very positive solution for the district, the teachers, and ultimately the students and community we serve.”
Newton Twp. resident P.J. Hughes, a sixth-grade teacher at Abington Heights Middle School, and the father of a fourth-grade daughter in the district, believes the district may have to consider raising taxes.
“I have experienced labor disputes in the district as a student, a teacher, and now as a father,” he said. “Our district has a long history of labor disputes, which tend to take several years to resolve. I’m proud to be an Abington Heights teacher , but I’m frustrated when I see districts in our region, with similar demographics, resolving their contract agreements without years of conflict and negative publicity. I know that no school board ever wants to raise taxes, and as a taxpayer, I don’t want to raise them either, but working in the school district I know that our administration and school board has been very responsible with running the district. There is no waste, there is little or no room to cut anymore, and we’re still a providing a phenomenal education for our students.”
Mahon is fearful that a tax hike would be troublesome to many taxpayers in the district.
“There is value at looking at what the increase would cost,” he said, “the problem that we see very often is that in some parts of our school district, there are those who could double or triple the taxes they pay, but the real problem is many of our residents can’t afford the tax bill they pay now, much less an increase. We see our delinquency rates increasing and while we haven’t seen increases in foreclosures, we’re always concerned given the economic activity.”