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Now, it's up to the teachers

Members of the Tigard Tualatin Education Association will vote in January on whether to accept district contracts
by: Jennifer Clampet, THE LAST STAND — About 250 people — teachers, parents and students from Tigard High School — crowd into the Tigard-Tualatin School Board meeting room Thursday in a demonstration of support for a fair contract for the district’s teachers.

TIGARD - A tentative agreement on contracts affecting 722 Tigard-Tualatin teachers has been reached. Next comes the hard part: getting the contract approved by the members of the Tigard Tualatin Education Association.

Bargaining teams for the TTEA and Tigard-Tualatin School District spent about 25 hours hashing out contract negotiations last week.

The end result was a compromise that TTEA bargaining Chairman Mike Weinandy has confidence in and that Superintendent Rob Saxton was relieved to see wrapped up before the winter break.

The two groups have spent the last nine months working on contract language, salary and health coverage offers. Teachers have been working under an expired contract since July.

But TTEA members still have to approve the new contract. And a vote likely won't happen until after winter break, sometime in January, Weinandy said.

Terms of the tentative agreement will not be disclosed to the public until after TTEA officials have met with teachers.

'We didn't get everything we wanted. They (the district) didn't get everything they wanted. So to me that's a pretty fair and equitable agreement. I hope we can just go forward now,' said Weinandy.

The last round of negotiations started at 8 a.m. Friday and didn't conclude until 9 a.m. Saturday.

During the School Board meeting Thursday night, board Chairwoman Caroline Neunzert said it was the intention of the bargaining groups to stay as long as needed on Friday in order to reach a conclusion on the contract negotiations. Her words were accepted in silence from the 250 people - teachers, parents and students - who packed themselves into the meeting room to rally for a 'fair settlement.'

Weinandy, who had expected a large turnout for the School Board meeting, was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people.

'It was impressive, and I was shocked,' he said.

Saxton said he wasn't surprised by the turnout.

The prolonged negotiations, which both sides admitted took too long, was for the most part related to the amount of work spent on contract language - those issues dealing with teacher evaluations, tuition reimbursement, paid leave, flexible work hours and extra pay for sponsoring after-school activities. After that, the groups still had to tackle salary and health insurance coverage issues.

But with a tentative agreement reached almost six months after the expiration of the last contract, e-mails between parents, teachers and supporters have hinted that some teachers may hold a grudge against the district.

Asked if either side worried about hard feelings or a loss of trust in dealing with the teachers or district, both Saxton and Weinandy replied, 'I hope not.'

And Weinandy added, 'I certainly have no hard feelings.'