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Negotiators for the District 65 School Board and the District Educators Council, the teachers union, returned to the bargaining table on Oct. 16 in an attempt to reach a new collective bargaining agreement. Additional sessions were held on Oct. 22 and 27. So far no deal has been reached.

School Board President Mary Erickson told the RoundTable, “The tone of the meetings has been very open and we’ve had good discussions. We’re doing this civilly and with respect.” She said DEC negotiators suggested bringing in a federal mediator through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, who would attempt to bring the parties together to reach an agreement. “It was something DEC suggested, but it is something we are both very happy to do,” she added.

DEC President Dorothy Millard told the RoundTable, “Our conversations were productive but we did not reach an agreement and that is why we are requesting the assistance of a mediator.” She said DEC and the School Board would jointly make the request.

Ms. Erickson said the School Board and DEC have used a mediator before in reaching a collective bargaining agreement. After a mediator is designated, the parties will work with the mediator to schedule future negotiating sessions.

The teachers’ contract expired over the summer, and teachers have been working without a contract since that time. Pat Markham, the District’s director of communications, told the RoundTable that teachers are being paid under the salary schedule provided in the old contract.

Background on the Negotiations

On June 17, negotiators for DEC and the School Board reached a tentative agreement, but teachers did not vote on the tentative agreement until Sept. 3, after they returned from summer break. Eighty-five percent of the teachers voted to reject the deal, sources told the RoundTable.

While the terms of the tentative agreement have not been made public, two weeks before that agreement was reached the School Board had offered to increase the teacher salary schedule by about 5.7 percent each year, but requested that the school day be extended by 20 minutes a day.

Ms. Erickson said the extended school day was something parents and the administration requested.

DEC’s negotiating team maintained that the effective pay increase would be less than one percent per year because the Board was insisting that the teachers’ workday be increased by about five percent. They also said teachers were being asked to pay a greater portion of medical insurance costs.

Renewed contract negotiations were deferred until DEC’s negotiating team had an opportunity to survey teachers to determine what teachers wanted to see in a new contract. Before renewed contract negotiations began on Oct. 16, about 250 teachers packed the first floor atrium of the Joseph E. Hill Administration Center to show support for their negotiators.

Dorothy Millard, president of DEC, told the teachers at that rally, “This shows the District we have your support, we are united. We want a contract that shows your hard work, your expertise, and your commitment are appreciated.”

On Oct. 20 Board President Mary Erickson said at the beginning of a Board meeting that the tentative agreement was the “richest contract since the inception of tax caps.” She added, “The Board believes that it has stretched as far as it should, particularly when our nation and our taxpayers are confronted with a severe economic crisis with rising mortgage foreclosures, plummeting housing values and rising unemployment. The realities jeopardize the Board’s future revenues and we do not want the District in a position to face financial difficulties that force future cutbacks.”