Last week, Radnor, Pennsylvania, teachers working without a contract said they would refrain from writing college recommendation letters until October.
That move sent a shock wave through Radnor High School’s senior class, who wrote to the school board asking for a speedy resolution to the contract talks and urging the teachers union “to drop its protest strategy of withholding our recommendation letters.”
On Wednesday, the Radnor Township Education Association relented, releasing a statement that teachers would “commence [the] recommendation letter writing process immediately,” but that the tactic was “the most immediate way to generate awareness and ask for awareness of parents and students.”
Since school started Sept. 8, teachers have staged informational pickets and worn black to draw attention to the prolonged contract negotiations. Their last contract, which covered 2010 to 2013, was extended for another two years and expired at the end of August. The Radnor Township School District, in Delaware County, is also negotiating with two other unions, representing all other school district employees.
Teachers union president David Wood said the school board has been “invested in fields and parking spaces and sign posts” rather than “invested in excellence,” the district’s motto. Teachers are asking to be paid on the same level as teachers in competitive neighboring districts, such as Lower Merion, where median annual salaries are up to $20,000 higher, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
In a statement earlier this week, Superintendent Michael J. Kelly said the board has met with the teachers union six times between January and the end of August. A mediator from the Pennsylvania Department of Labor has been brought in to assist with negotiations.
In response to concerns about the letters, school officials held an assembly for Radnor High School seniors Tuesday morning. Some students wore white to an open house to protest being “forced right in the middle” of the contract dispute.
The union’s Wednesday statement said student response to the labor dispute made “us proud to be their teachers, counselors, and mentors.”
While letters were not being written, guidance counselors had picked up the slack and had also been reaching out to schools proactively to ensure that students could meet admissions deadlines.
The union and school board are slated to resume negotiations next week.