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Pittsburgh Public Schools District, Teachers Continue Negotiations Friday

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PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) – Negotiations between Pittsburgh Public Schools teachers and the district will continue Friday following Monday's overwhelming vote by the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers (PFT) authorizing leaders to strike.

Ninety-four percent of votes returned and counted Feb. 12 were in favor of authorizing union leaders and negotiators to call for a strike as they work with the district to resolve contract issues. Teachers have been working without a contract after their extension agreement ran out in June of last year.

PFT President Nina Esposito-Visgitis told KDKA Afternoon News host Robert Mangino on Monday before the votes were counted, "We don't want any type of work stoppage … but we needed to make some kind of statement."

"Many of the issues that we wanted to deal with were things that are good for kids and schools and teachers," Esposito-Visgitis said.

Major topics she listed were class size, pay scale, and teaching and learning environments.

"Making all of our schools a place where teachers want to teach, students want to learn and parents want to send their kids" was how Esposito-Visgitis described the PFT's goal for Pittsburgh Public Schools.

She says the district has been unwilling to negotiate on all of these items, which she calls "frustrating."

The union is required to give the district 48-hour notice before a strike begins.

Despite the first strike authorization vote in over a decade, Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent Dr. Anthony Hamlet told Robert Mangino on Wednesday that he believes negotiations are going well and they are close to a resolution.

Hamlet says many issues have been resolved, but the parties have yet to reach an agreement on ten outstanding issues, two of which he says are causing more issues than others.

"Those sticking points being principals having the autonomy to schedule the master schedule in the school buildings," Hamlet said, also citing what the district calls its "churn date," that he claims further inhibits principals' autonomy in schools.

Hamlet said he wasn't surprised by the strike vote.

"I'm not sure how much information the teachers really understand and know," he said. "How much clarity that have of where we currently are in the process."

The last time the PFT authorized a strike was October of 2007. Negotiations were resolved before a strike was called. The last teacher strike in Pittsburgh Public Schools was in 1975.

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