The Gresham-Barlow School Board voted unanimously March 22 to implement a contract on its teachers - although it's technically not a contract, it's an 'operating structure' since the teachers didn't agree to it.
Now, the question is, how will teachers respond? The Outlook was unable to get a response from union leaders in time for this edition. But the Gresham-Barlow Education Association's March 20 newsletter The Word slams the deal for purportedly cutting pay, increasing meeting time and decreasing preparation time.
'The GBEA contends that bargaining requires concessions on both sides of the table, not unilateral implementation,' The Word reads, adding: 'Expect more organizing events when we return from spring break in April.'
Almost a year of negotiations has failed to yield a new contract, the last one having expired June 30, 2011. And as of March 23, there were no negotiations scheduled; the last round of mediated talks ended March 20.
The union can accept the implemented deal 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.
In a nutshell, the district claims the union's proposal is financially unrealistic, and could cost up to approximately $4 million, forcing the district to possibly cut as many as 43 teachers next year, up to 16 school days or some combination of the two.
The union contends the district is greatly exaggerating the fiscal impact of its proposals and that it is willing to compromise, having already offered to give up five paid days this year. The union adds that the district is dismissing teachers' genuine concerns over proposed scheduling changes - particularly at the high schools - and reductions in preparation time, among other issues.
Gresham-Barlow Superintendent Jim Schlachter has stated implementation was needed to meet 'critical' deadlines for the 2012-13 school year.
He noted the district's proposed 2012-13 budget is due in April; a proposed academic calendar must be completed by April 5; and school staff needs to complete schedules.
Schlachter did extend an olive branch to the union in a press statement.
'The district is still willing to go back to the bargaining table to explore concerns addressed by the association,' he said. 'The remaining non-financial articles may be resolved if we can find a way to identify common goals and begin to work together to develop solutions.'
At the March 22 meeting, the school board also directed the school district to conduct a study on safety and behavior issues within the district and use that research to develop a plan to address current challenges.
Schlachter recommends bringing together the district and the union to create the plan. How to handle disruptive and violent students has been one of the bones of contention between the union and the district during negotiations, according to both sides.
'We want to make sure that there's an unresolved safety problem that needs to be addressed,' said Dale Clark, chairman of the school board. 'Should we uncover something, we need to make sure we have something in place to address it.'