Union, District on More Friendly Footing After Thursday Meet

LOWER POTTSGROVE PA – The seemingly rocky relationship between the Pottsgrove School District and its teachers union that was on display during Tuesday’s (July 14, 2020) school board meeting has apparently become far more cordial, according to a letter distributed Thursday afternoon by Pottsgrove Education Association union President John Shantz Jr.

Shantz reported a Thursday (July 16) Zoom-based conference involving district Superintendent Dr. William Shirk, Assistant Superintendent Dr. Robert Harney, PGEA Secretary Steve Mellor, and himself resulted in “a great meeting,” he wrote. “We are on the same page. Wrinkles have been ironed out.”

That’s in sharp contrast to an earlier letter by Shantz, publicly released as part of Tuesday’s school board session. In it, he accused the Pottsgrove administration of denying the union “seats at the table on the team put together” to plot the district’s course in safely returning students to education as the new academic year begins.

The district and the association agreed Thursday six union-selected representatives will be added to the planning team. They are:

  • Lambert Liebel, its treasurer,
  • Holli Artim from Pottsgrove High School,
  • Marilyn Eaton from Pottsgrove Middle School,
  • Melissa Vishio from Lower Pottsgrove Elementary,
  • Lauren Delp from Ringing Rocks Elementary, and
  • Wendy Hasara from West Pottsgrove Elementary.

In his letter Thursday, Shantz candidly admitted “I am thankful but do not envy the position that (the Pottsgrove administration) is in. Rest assured that the PGEA is confident in working with the (district administrators) and school board members. We will always be here to do our best in any version of the return to school. ALL of these groups exist to serve the entire Pottsgrove community.”

Every school director received a copy of Shantz’s missive.

The association has already distributed to its members copies of the health and safety plan for athletics and the high school marching band that was discussed and approved Tuesday night by directors. Shantz said the union is soliciting members’ “questions, comments, suggestions, and solutions,” and intends to deliver its review to the administration by July 22 (Wednesday).

How union members feel about returning to education

Shantz’s Thursday letter also included results of a survey of union members that requested their thoughts on how the district’s reopening might proceed. Of 247 members, 237 responded to the survey, representing a response rate of 96 percent. Of the 237, Shantz noted:

  • 131, or 55.3 percent voted for a virtual academy with no one entering the building;
  • 60, or 25.3 percent voted for a hybrid model; and
  • 46, or 19.4 percent voted to return to the building in person completely.

“This does not mean that the (union) is taking an official position,” Shantz cautioned. “This is just data we wanted to present to everyone. It also allows us to get a better look at what the people we represent are thinking.”

Photo by The Post