DISTRICT STRIKES BACK
Parents, students protest ongoing contract dispute, teachers strike in Dallas
DALLAS TWP. — Striking Dallas School District teachers had some company picketing with signs Friday on the school district campus.
Roughly two dozen parents and taxpayers were picketing in front of the administration building to voice their displeasure with the strike, which now has forced the school district to cancel six school days. Most there blamed both the school board and the teachers union for failing to find a compromise.
Event organizer Joanna Cunningham said the rally was not a protest against the teachers, but she did endorse legislation that would prohibit teachers from striking in the state. She also launched an online petition backing the proposed legislation, which has received support from more than 1,400 people.
“We are neutral,” said Cunningham, who has children in the first and fourth grades at Dallas Elementary School. “Everyone is to blame. We want the problem to be solved.”
Cunningham was upset when former Dallas School Board member Clarke Bittner arrived and started attacking the teachers union.
“Our school board has to be commended,” Bittner said.
Teachers have not had a union agreement and pay increases since September 2015. They went on strike in November and December 2016 and started another strike Sept. 22.
‘I love our teachers ... But the strike is just tearing apart the community. The community is going to be broken from this for a very long time.’ DIANE POCONO District parent
Sticking points in negotiations have included demands that teachers contribute more to fund health benefits, proposals to alter an early retirement incentive and disagreements on how much to provide for pay increases.
Participants in Friday’s antistrike demonstration were chanting while striking teachers walked up and down Conyngham Avenue.
“What do we want?” a participant asked.
“End the strike!” the group answered.
“When do we want it?” she followed up. “Now!” the group replied. John Holland, a region field director for the Pennsylvania State Education Association and chief negotiator for the Dallas teachers union, was down the street and said it would be “un-American” to strip teachers of the right to strike.
“It’s part of democracy, the right to protest,” Holland said.
The goal of education is to produce “responsible citizens” who can get “good jobs and good benefits,” and teachers are being criticized for trying to protect their jobs and benefits, Holland said.
Shelby Pocono, a high school freshman, was at the antistrike demonstration.
“I miss the routine, seeing my friends, having things to do,” she said.
She is in the marching band and complained the band hasn’t practiced since the strike began and “just shows up for games.”
Her mother, Diane Pocono, said her other daughter, an eighth-grade student, was “home in bed” because “she has settled into that routine instead of getting up at 6 a.m.”
“I love our teachers,” she added. “I spent many years at Wycallis (Elementary School) doing crafts with the kids. But the strike is just tearing apart the community. The community is going to be broken from this for a very long time.”
Lacy Rice has three boys — Pre-K, fifth grade and eighth grade. Because of the strike, she has to spend more on daycare at Dallas Little People.
“It’s an extra expense,” she said. “I’m a single mom, in nursing school, and I work. I just want it to end. They are not accomplishing anything.”
Lisa Ayers said the strike prevents her from doing work on her landscape business because she now has to take care of her two boys, a kindergarten student and a secondgrade student.
“They need to come together,” Ayers said.
The state limits the length the teacher strikes, and the school district will reschedule school days lost from the strike. Teachers can strike twice per school year, and the first strike must end so students can have 180 school days by June 15. The state Department of Education has determined that teachers are required to be back at work Oct. 19.
Lacy Rice with her sons, Ryan, left, and Sean, gather with other parents supporting an end to the teachers strike at Dallas High School on Friday. Top: Dallas freshman Shelby Pocono said she misses her school routine.
Joanna Cunningham, center, leads a group of parents supporting an end to the teachers strike as striking teachers walk nearby at Dallas High School on Friday.