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Belle Vernon School District Reaches Tentative Deal With Teachers

BELLE VERNON (KDKA) -- Early Tuesday morning, teachers and the Belle Vernon Area School District were able to reach a tentative deal to avoid a strike.

The Belle Vernon Area Education Association was prepared to go on strike Tuesday morning, after 17 months of working without a contract.

It was a long night in Belle Vernon, but the school superintendent said they all knew the alternative was a strike. As a result, they kept on working and just after 1 a.m., a tentative deal was reached.

While today should have been the second day of school for kids in The Belle Vernon School District, all was quiet.

The teachers' union threatened to strike Tuesday at midnight, unaware a late night deal would come through.

"I'm kind of relieved and maybe both sides got what they were looking for," Sandra Callaway said.

"It was time to make a decision or be out for 20 days," Superintendent Dr. John Wilkinson said.

Without a contract for over 400 days, the teachers' union rallied at the planned school board meeting Monday night ahead of their planned strike. After the meeting, both sides agreed to meet.

Fourteen people worked out details for hours until 1 a.m., when a tentative agreement was before them.

"I would say within the first half hour I had a good feeling because there was a lot of dialogue," Dr. Wilkinson said.

Because the agreement came too late to send notice, kids were kept home from school today.

Just down from the school campus at Bright Start Learning Center, Diane Mesiarik said she received a lot of phone calls from parents Monday concerned about the possibility of a strike.

"We were expecting to have a lot of kids. We were expecting it to last two weeks, that's what they said - two weeks. But luckily, they came to an agreement so we're good," Mesiarik said.

While a vote still needs to take place, everyone affected and involved is pleased that this came to a resolution.

"This is fantastic news. It's an example of two groups coming together that have different perspectives and having a chance to sit and talk about what's important for the district, what's important for the students," Dr. Wilkinson said.

"I'm really hoping for a really wonderful school year," one student said.
The teachers' union will hold a ratification vote on Sept. 21. The school board will vote on the contract the same day.

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