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HEA, Unit 3 district reach contract agreement

By Travis DeNeal
updated: 12/21/2016 11:05 PM

HARRISBURG – Harrisburg teachers and its school board kicked off the holiday break with an extra reason to celebrate.

Members of Harrisburg's teachers' union and the district school board negotiated an agreement late Tuesday evening that tentatively will keep the school year running smoothly, negotiators say. The district's Christmas break began after school Wednesday.

The marathon negotiating session, which was a third meeting between the two sides and a federal mediator, lasted from about 4 p.m. to 10:30 Tuesday night, board president Debbie McGowan said.

Though a vote to ratify the contract will not take place until Jan. 3, most involved say they expect union teachers to approve the contract.

Superintendent Mike Gauch said district and union negotiators approved to the "financial package" in the contract, which he described as being a hybrid of union requests and board offers.

Gauch said district administration is pleased with the results.

"Speaking for myself and the board, we are ecstatic we will not have kids out of class," Gauch said. "Our main concern was a work stoppage, and the kids would suffer."

McGowan said she was proud of the HEA negotiating team for the effort they began early in 2016.

"I appreciate all of the hard work of the negotiations team. They are extremely dedicated in their representation of the 127 teachers of the HEA," McGowan said. "We started negotiations in March 2016 and worked through the summer but we really started working on the financial part of the contract in August after the district received information from the state regarding the amount of money it would receive this year.

"The team has worked very hard. They have been available at all hours. They have attended many meetings, bargaining sessions, and three mediation sessions. In addition to our negotiations team, last night we also had our crisis team present at the mediation session and several teachers waited in the commons area to support our team."

The HEA team consisted of McGowan, who was chief negotiator and represented Harrisburg Middle School, Harrisburg High School representative Richard Dwyer, East Side representative Lisa Ozment, West Side representative Julie Martin and HEA officer representative Laurie Pappenfuss.

Teachers have been working without a new contract since July 1.

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