NEW MILFORD TOWNSHIP -- In Susquehanna County, teachers in Blue Ridge School District picketed a board meeting Monday night.
Montrose Area and Blue Ridge are neighboring school districts. Teachers in Montrose Area are on strike and in a few weeks, Blue Ridge teachers could be as well.
Teachers stood outside before the Blue Ridge School board meeting handing out fliers and walking with signs.
They've been working without a contract and say if they don't get one by April 25, they're going on strike.
“It's been a long five years. We haven't had any raises. We've been paying into our healthcare, 10 percent at premium. We just want a fair contract and for this to be over,” said Blue Ridge Education Association President Tricia Gilboy.
More than 100 teachers in neighboring Montrose Area began striking last week. The major sticking point between them and school leaders is salaries. In Blue Ridge, it's health care costs.
“Both districts are being advised by the same firm, doing their negotiations, and I think they're getting bad advice in all honesty. That firm promises savings, but at what cost? That firm does not consider how that affects the community. The students are remarkably resilient. Studies have shown the strike won't harm students, but the community itself, that's where the harm can happen,” said PSEA Representative Jim Maria.Montrose Area school officials say
Montrose Area school officials say they're shocked teachers decided to strike during negotiations. They say they simply can't afford the salary hikes teachers want.
Blue Ridge school board members say union members in their district refuse to compromise.
"We may not pay as much as other districts pay their teachers, but when you look at the average salary of our constituents, they're $40,000 to $45,000. The average pay of our teachers is around $55,000, so I think the board feels they are well compensated,” said Blue Ridge School Board President Christopher Lewis.
Teachers and school leaders in Blue Ridge have a negotiation session scheduled for April 12.
As for Montrose Area, that strike is ongoing and may continue into next week.
"I just think it's sad. I mean, we're your front line. We're the ones who take care of your kids and Montrose wants a fair contract, too,” said Gilboy.
There hasn't been a strike in the Blue Ridge School District in more than 35 years.