Medford teachers, supporters rally as negotiations continue

The Medford Education Association's president stood atop the steps of the school district offices under stormy skies today and told the crowd of more than 200 community supporters that its show of support was helping her bargaining team endure the "brutality" of the negotiation processes.

In an emotional speech, MEA president and bargaining team co-chairwoman Cheryl Lashley decried the district for offering an "all or nothing" contract that would leave teachers working longer hours and more days with a net 3 percent decrease in their pay.

"We are speechless at what was given to us," Lashley said. "We are not going to take this. We are not."

Several weeks into the new school year, the Medford School District has yet to reach an agreement with its 600 teachers on a new contract. Wage increases, pension contributions and the number of workdays are part of the dispute between the Medford School District and the teachers union. The two sides met with a mediator this evening.

An impartial third party assigned by the Oregon Employment Relations Board is in the meetings with both parties. If there is no settlement, mediation can continue or one side can declare an impasse, in which case both parties have to submit their final offers and cost summaries to the mediator followed by a 30-day cooling-off period.

Teachers could then go on strike after giving 10 days' notice.

According to a worksheet prepared by the district earlier this month, a newly hired teacher with a bachelor's degree and no experience would start the 2013-14 school year at $34,183, a 3.2 percent increase over the current annual base salary. The union was asking for $35,518, a 7.2 percent increase, in part to offset six additional days of instruction. The district would no longer pay the teachers' 6 percent pension contribution.

Lashley, a third-grade teacher at Howard Elementary, told the crowd that the district had offered changes that worsened its previous offer by insisting teachers work longer hours and more days. Its offer of a 6 percent pay increase was more than offset by the removal of Public Employees Retirement System contributions when combined with a requirement teachers add six more days to their teaching time.

"That is at least a 3 percent decrease in our salary," Lashley said.

In August, the district said in a statement on its website that its proposal "matches its priorities."

"The increase in calendar days provides more instructional time and teacher preparation time to improve student achievement and graduation rates," the statement reads. "The salary and benefits compensation offered match those offered to other District employees, are reflective of the market and allow the District to stabilize and create sustainable funding for the District."

In the 2011-13 contract, the base salary for Medford teachers was less than teachers with similar degrees and experience earn at Central Point, Eagle Point, Grants Pass or Ashland, according to the Oregon School Board Association's 2012-2013 Salary Survey Book.

— Sanne Specht

Read more in the Mail Tribune on Wednesday.

Share This Story