CLARKS SUMMIT — Abington Heights Superintendent Dr. Michael Mahon announced during the district’s Dec. 6 school board meeting that seniors will be able to attend classes, taught by administrators, throughout the labor stoppage, should the Abington Heights Education Association (AHEA) strike on Jan. 2.
According to Mahon, high school principal Andrew Snyder led the charge to make the classes a reality.
“Through Mr. Snyder’s leadership and, with the cooperation of all our administrators, the students will be able to come to school and take their courses from some very talented instructors. We’ll make sure, to the very best that we can, that graduation will occur on time.
“I’ve been here 14 years and we’ve only had one prior strike. This is the first time we’d be able to actually have classes for seniors during the strike and we’re very excited about being able to do it, but we’re hoping it’s not necessary. Our administrators are certified educators and our human relations office is consulting with the state. We’re very confident that not only will be able to it legally but also that, should it happen to occur, the administrators will do a great job.”
Mahon added that, should there be a strike, the high school cafeteria would be open for seniors and any student or family in the district due to the fact that the other cafeterias would be closed.
According to AHEA President Tim Moher, the teachers’ union made a modification to its proposal for a new contract during a negotiations session Oct. 23 in hopes of bringing the sides closer to a deal.
“We feel like we put a very good proposal on the table,” Moher said. “We offered a potential change to our health care, which was the provider of our pharmacy plan and that would save the district at least $300,000 – which ends up being more money than they were requesting through a premium share.”
Mahon acknowledged the district is currently examining the proposal and plans to discuss specifics during the next meeting between the two sides.
“The school district received some information and we’ve been in the process of reviewing it,” Mahon said. “We intend to offer our thoughts (to the union) during negotiations.”
According to board president Cathy Ann Hardaway, negotiation sessions between the AHEA and school district are scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 13 and Tuesday, Dec. 19.
Members of the board voted, 6-0, to elect Hardaway as its president. Hardaway abstained from the vote and Michael Fleming and Warren Acker were absent.
Hardaway has served for 14 years as president and 17 years as a member of the school board.
Members of the board voted, 6-0, to elect Louise Brzuchalski as vice president. Brzuchalski abstained from the vote.
Katie Naegele, a parent of children in the district and a teacher in a local school district, addressed the board with concerns regarding the curriculum.
“I have concerns regarding the curriculum in the English Language Arts area, specifically in the middle school,” Naegele said. “I think it’s a bigger problem that really needs some work.”
Naegele questioned the board members regarding their process for implementing new products into the curriculum.
“Would the board have any plans for updating or purchasing (new) research-based materials that would meet the needs of three different tiers of learners within the schools?” Naegele asked. “I’m coming across materials, at some points, that are over grade level in the sixth grade.”
According to Mahon, the concerns are being addressed; however, the district feels comfortable about its current process.
“We want to adjust, but at the same time we think we’re trying to drive a quality educational product to all our kids,” he said. “A range of reading levels is definitely appropriate and we recognize that we may need some more structure.”
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.