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Tentative labor pact good for kids, teachers, district

It's more than good news that the Tigard-Tualatin School District and teachers reached a tentative agreement last weekend on a new labor agreement.

Teachers have been working without a current agreement since June 30. And as the months dragged on without progress on a new deal, relations between teachers and the district had frayed noticeably. In fact, for the past several months, many teachers had taken to publicly lobby for higher wages by wearing buttons to school that said 'Catch Up. Keep Up' - a slogan that teachers said described their belief that Tigard-Tualatin educators were falling behind the pay scales offered in other Portland area school districts.

Both sides are keeping a tight lid on details of the tentative agreement. But you can likely assume the pact to be voted on by teachers in early January calls for a three-year agreement and pay increases that at least will match the district's late November offer of a 4 percent first-year raise followed by 3.6 percent pay raises in the second and third year along with some improved health insurance benefits.

As important as these salary numbers are, other outcomes are also important. Finally, district officials and teachers, as well as other school staff and students, can imagine the rest of the school year without the risk and suffering of a debilitating teachers' strike. Looking ahead, the focus will be on teaching kids in better ways and by promoting a better and more stable local system for students and teachers.

Looking ahead, the district, teachers and community leaders will need to mend tattered fences and choose to invest together in local classrooms by promoting renewal of the school district's local option levy in 2008 and very likely, a bond measure vote in 2010 for additional classrooms, school repairs and more schools.

None of this could have happened in - or after - a strike.

Looking ahead, district officials and teachers should decide to mutually look backward to be able to move forward. We feel it important for both to ask themselves what lessons were learned during the past nine months of contentious labor negotiations and determine how to achieve progress and partnerships in the future without first going through strife.