Following the Downingtown Area School District's press conference Monday morning announcing that negotiations had again broken down, the Downingtown Area Education Association (DAEA) held their own press briefing.The union disagreed with the school board's take on why talks had broken down after a combined 17 hours of negotiations over two days.

"Alice Johnson was not at the negotiations on Sunday," said Paul Gottlieb, the Pennsylvania State Education Association staff negotiator for the DAEA. "She has no first hand knowledge.

"The board made a strategic error. They took money off the table. Thursday, the union and district received a mediator's offer. We made agreements on salary and benefits."

Gottlieb said as an act of goodwill the union called off picketing for Friday because they believed an agreement was imminent.

"The goodwill went nowhere," he said. "The district took money off the table. The district came out with guns blazing Sunday."

Gottlieb also disagrees with the fact that Johnson said there is just one underlying issue keeping the two sides from reaching an agreement.

"When Dr. Johnson says there is only one issue, that is not true," he said. Gottlieb says the teachers are looking for the contracts to be retroactive to when the previous contract ran out.

"The effective date would be 9/1/07," he said. "We want pay back to 9/1/07 and the district has not agreed to that."

Gottlieb said that retroactivity is very important to the union, especially since the teachers have been working since September without a contract.

"We are not in a position to settle without retroactivity," he said. "The district came in nickel and diming us."

Gottlieb also said the reason the union is not interested in non-binding arbitration is because they are working with a mediator currently, which is essentially like being in non-binding arbitration already.

"When the district says they are interested in non-binding arbitration, it is tantamount to a mediator," he said. "We rejected non-binding because of experience with a mediator."

According to Gottlieb, the union thought they were close to an agreement, but once the district took money off the table, "the atmosphere changed."

"We didn't go out Friday because we made an effort to pull the picketers off the street in a face saving notion," said Gottlieb. "We thought we were done and ready to roll out Sunday."

As for the issue of in-service days, Gottlieb says the union wants to add days so the teachers don't lose those extra days of pay, as well as have an opportunity to train on a new computer system.

"We're asking to add days or to work on the weekends," he said.

"We would not change or add additional days for students," said Lisa Anderson, the president of the teachers union.

According to Gottlieb, the state mediator has said she will not call the two sides again, although she said that before and did call both sides in to meet.

For daily updates on school closing and strike updates, visit www.dasd.org. The district has also initiated a negotiation hot-line, 610-450-4362, that can be accessed 24 hours a day.

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