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Teachers pack board meeting

Both sides of Gresham-Barlow negotiations meet March 7 in attempt to settle contract

More than 200 teachers with the Gresham-Barlow School District showed up at the district's board meeting Thursday to voice concerns regarding stalled contract negotiations.

The teachers brought signs and posters with such slogans as 'We Deserve Better' and 'Stop Stalling.'

The meeting was held at Gresham City Hall,

Representatives of the district as well as the Gresham-Barlow Education Association have been meeting since April 2011 to negotiate a contract. The last one expired June 30, 2011.

At the meeting, Superintendent Jim Schlachter read a lengthy statement updating the board and public on the district's view of the negotiations. The district contends the union's salary proposal would add $2.3 million to the 2012-13 budget and would mean the district may have to cut 27 teaching positions next year.

'Over many months of negotiations, there have not been any proposed moves by either side to address a more than $2.3 million dollar gap,' Schlacter said, adding the district has offered to keep salary step increases for 2011-12 but not grant them next school year.

In a follow-up interview, Schlacter added the district would have to cut more days or more staff to meet the Association's proposal.

Tom Urbanowicz, the union's bargaining chairman, countered that salary had not been seriously tackled during the negotiations and said he felt Schlachter had mischaracterized the union's stance. The teachers are willing to make sacrifices for the district, he said.

'We realize times are tough, and we realize we're not going to be the highest paid teachers in the world,' Urbanowicz added.

Although both sides have reached tentative agreement on 28 articles that would go into a new contract, issues still being negotiated include how to handle disruptive students and a proposed new schedule at Gresham, Barlow and Springwater Trail high schools.

On Feb. 3, the district declared an impasse in negotiations with the union. Since then, the two sides met in a mediated session on Feb. 28, and both agreed that the meeting was a slightly positive one.

The two sides will meet again Wednesday, March 7.

On March 11, a state mandated 30-day 'cooling off' period ends. On March 12, the district can implement all or parts of its final offer. Should that be the case, the union can either accept the offer or consider striking.

For more information on the district's views, visit gresham.k12.or.us and click 'Negotiations Update.'



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