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Line Mountain enters
non-binding arbitration
By Duane Good, EDITOR

The Line Mountain School Board and Line Mountain Education Association have agreed to enter non-binding, but mandatory, arbitration in an effort to settle a new contract for the district’s teachers.

Timothy Tietze, who is employed by the state Department of Labor, is serving as arbitrator. As of Nov. 9, no timetable had been set for the arbitration process.

Line Mountain teachers have been working under the terms of the last contract, which expired June 30, 2012.

Spokesman for both sides confirmed that this round of arbitration is mandatory under state law. The previous arbitration, which the board accepted but the LMEA rejected, was voluntary.

‘‘The current arbitration is mandatory as a result of the teacher work stoppage pushing the student calendar to June 15. As a result, the teachers were ordered by the state Department of Education to return to work and enter into mandatory, non-binding arbitration,’’ said Mark McDade, a Pennsylvania State Education Association employee representing the LMEA.

‘‘Since this is now mandatory arbitration instead of the previous voluntary, the arbitration panel will have little flexibility in their award,’’ said Benjamin Pratt, an attorney representing the board. ‘‘They will be restricted to only determining if the district’s issues are better or if the associations issues are better, they will not be able to offer a compromise, as it happened in the first arbitration.’’

McDade said he anticipates the process taking a few months before the the arbitration panel is ready to issue an award.

Once the arbitrator makes a decision, ‘‘The law requires the parties to vote to either accept or to reject the opinion of the arbitration panel,’’ said McDade.

‘‘If both parties vote to accept, the parties are             then bound by the award.  Should either party (or both) reject the award, the parties will recommence negotiations,’’ he noted.  ‘‘The teachers also have the right             to resume its first strike under the law.

‘‘Technically, the board does not desire to go through this process again.  Due to the teachers strike we are required to participate,’’ said Pratt.  ‘‘The district hopes that the arbitration panel supports its position and finds that their position is fair and reasonable.’’

‘‘As always, it is the LMEA’s desire to reach a fair and equitable contract with the school board,’’ McDade stated. ‘‘We hope that the arbitration process will provide to             both parties a satisfactory result – or, at the very least, provide the parties with a roadmap to get this contract dispute resolved.’’