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Hopeful signs arise in Reynolds contract dispute

Informal talks on Thursday lead to renewed negotiations Friday
by: STEVEN BROWN, Teachers from the Reynolds School District walk the picket line this morning at Woodland Elementary School, 21607 N.E. Glisan St , Fairview. The teachers went on strike at 6 a.m. today.

After meeting all Thursday afternoon in informal talks, representatives of the Reynolds School District and its teachers union will hold another mediated session at noon Friday, May 25, in an attempt to resolve their contract dispute.

In a statement distributed late Thursday by district spokeswoman Andrea Watson, the district and the union appeared to strike a conciliatory tone after a week of combativeness.

'Informal talks were held all afternoon,' the statement read. 'The purpose of today's meeting was for both parties to gain clarity and understanding on the unresolved language issues.

'The goal of the Reynolds Education Association and the Reynolds School District is to reach a settlement in mediation on Friday, May 25, so we can welcome students back to school on Tuesday, May 29. The mediation on Friday will begin at noon, and the location will be announced as soon as it is confirmed.'

Both Watson and union President Joyce Rosenau were listed as contacts on the statement. Its message is the first optimistic sign following contract negotiations that concluded without an agreement May 23.

Teachers went on strike Monday, May 21, following a yearlong contract dispute, and school was canceled for the entire week.

Previously, Superintendent Joyce Henstrand said the district has made its final financial offer. She said its latest package is worth $5.09 million in additional costs over a three-year period. The latest offer leaves the district with a projected ending fund balance of just under $1 million in 2013-14, she said.

The $5.09 million offer includes a step pay increase in 2011-12; a delayed step increase in 2012- 13, with a 1 percent cost-of-living increase for teachers at the top of the pay scale; and a pay freeze in 2013-14. However, teachers would get a 2 percent cost-of-living increase in 2012-13 should the district post an ending fund balance that exceeds $13 million. The deal also includes incremental increases in health insurance contributions through 2014, Henstrand said.

Parent info

The district has established these strike hotlines for parents to call:

English - 503-491-3405.

Spanish - 503-491-3434.

Russian - 503-491-3435.

Parents are also urged to visit the district website at Reynolds.k12.or.us for updates.

Parties' sites

For more information on the district's side, visit Reynolds.k12.or.us.

For more information on the union's side, visit facebook.com/ReynoldsEducators.