PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Catholic high school teachers in the Philadelphia area are calling for mediation, as they try to negotiate a contract before classes begin next week.

Several hundred members of the Association of Catholic Teachers rallied today outside the center city headquarters of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, near 17th and Race Streets, while inside, union president Rita Schwartz was proposing that the two sides put their contract dispute to a mediator.

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“Hopefully they will agree to mediation, because somebody’s got to put this all together,” she told reporters afterward.

Negotiators say the teachers and archdiocese are still far apart on work rule issues and they’ve barely begun to talk money.

(Credit: Mike DeNardo)

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Richard McCarron, secretary for Catholic education (right), says the Archdiocese was taken aback by the request for mediation.

“We were indeed surprised by this eleventh-hour intervention.  We are presently taking that under advisement,” he said.

Classes are scheduled to begin September 7th for the Archdiocese’s 17,000 students at seventeen high schools in the five-county area.

Reported by Mike DeNardo, KYW Newsradio 1060

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