May 24—Gateway School District and teachers union officials reached an agreement Sunday and avoided a strike.
The announcement was made on the district's website and Facebook page.
The deal comes after more than 16 combined hours of talks Friday through Sunday between the district and Gateway Education Association officials.
"Both sides are relieved to end negotiations with a contract that's fair and equitable to both the teachers and the community,"said Rick McIntyre, school board member and district negotiations chairman. "Now we can focus on getting the kids back in the fall and recovering from the pandemic."
It is a four-year deal with teacher salaries increasing each year. Parties also agreed to have increased health care contributions from educators.
McIntyre said further details would be released once it is ratified by the union and voted on by the board. It is unclear when it would be ratified. The board meets June 7 for a work session and June 15 for its regular voting session.
"There's a lot of moving parts," McIntyre said about the process. "Every sticking point is attached to three other sticking points. Both sides come with a wish list and a 'what we can settle for' list. ... We just couldn't quite make those back and forths match up Friday night. We got it hammered out (Sunday)."
The most recent contract was a three-year deal. The association's 266 teachers, nurses, counselors, speech pathologists, social workers and behavior specialists have been working without a contract since June 30, 2020.
The average teacher salary is more than $80,000 with about 50 teachers making six figures.
Negotiations began January 2020 but hit a snag due to the pandemic.
"Covid is the number one reason this took as long as it did," McIntyre said. "When covid hit and the economy shut down, it put the district in a position where we couldn't come to the table with anything. How could I have a budget for next year when we don't know what's happening with the economy?"
School board president Brian Goppman thanked all of the people involved with the negotiations.
"It's been a marathon to say the least," he said. "We're happy with the end result. Strike's avoided, and now that all parties are satisfied, we can focus on completing the remainder of the school year."
The board also has to focus on the 2021-22 budget, which is expected to be adopted by the end of June.
Goppman said budget discussions earlier this month included a possible tax hike to help with the construction of a junior high school. He said any tax increase will not be the result of the new teachers contract.
Classes are expected to continue as normal Monday.
The Gateway Education Association notified Superintendent William Short on May 18 that a strike would begin if a tentative agreement had not been reached.
A call to union president Grant Sample was not immediately returned.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, email@example.com or via Twitter .