Gresham-Barlow board votes to impose contract on teachers
At a highly emotional meeting Tuesday, March 13, at Gresham City Council chambers, the Gresham-Barlow School District Board voted 5 to 1 to implement a contract by March 22 on district teachers.
Board members Carla Piluso was the sole dissenting vote, and Kent Zook was absent.
The vote comes after almost a year of negotiations between the district and the Gresham-Barlow Education Association failed to yield a new contract, the last one having expired June 30, 2011.
Superintendent Jim Schlachter said that implementation is needed to meet critical deadlines as the district plans for the 2012-13 school year, including April deadlines for its budget and academic calendar.
Salary and compensation issues, as well as class preparation time, staff development time and proposed new schedules for the district's high schools are among the issues still dividing both sides.
In a nutshell, the district claims the union's proposal is financially unrealistic and could lead to the district cutting 43 teachers next year and/or 16 school days. The union contends the district is greatly exaggerating the fiscal impact of its proposals and is dismissing teachers' genuine concerns about preparation time and other related issues.
Spokesmen for both sides said another mediated session likely will happen before March 22. If no settlement emerges by then, the union could accept the contract as is; accept the agreement but continue to negotiate over unresolved articles; or go on strike.
By law, the union must give the district at least 10 days notice before striking.
Tom Urbanowicz, the union's bargaining chairman, expressed disappointment at the board's vote and said a strike is possible.
'I don't understand their logic,' he said. 'The idea that this will bring a settlement.'
Hundreds of teachers and their supporters apparently agreed and picketed outside the city's building and on Eastman Parkway. After the vote took placed, several of the hundreds of audience members shouted 'Shame on you!', a slogan found on many signs they held.
Board members Kris Howatt and Kathy Ruthruff expressed frustration with the tone of union supporters, and Ruthruff, who was repeatedly interrupted during her remarks, said: 'Shame on you! I have been willing to listen to your opinions and you have not been willing to listen to me, which shows a certain side of your personalities.'
Piluso expressed deep frustration with both sides and said, after the meeting, she voted 'no' hoping it would send a signal to the teachers the board is not against them, but nonetheless wants them to negotiate in good faith.
'I want this to happen and to happen soon, but it takes both sides to do it,' she said.
Dan Chriestenson said he voted 'yes' for one reason.
'I don't want one more teacher to lose their job, period.'