Medford teachers want 'informed' vote

Teachers won't vote on a tentative contract agreement with the Medford School District until next week, union officials said Tuesday.

"We want to make sure everyone has gone through it (the contract) and has time to ask questions so it will be an informed vote," said Lisa North, Medford Education Association spokeswoman and an elementary school instructional coach.

The MEA will distribute ballots Monday to union representatives from each school. Those representatives will pass the ballots out to teachers, who will seal their votes in confidential envelopes.

"Hopefully, by the end of next week, we'll have a final count," North said.

A tentative agreement between the union and district was reached Friday after an 11-work day strike, the fifth longest in Oregon history. The contract was presented to the 600 members of the union on Sunday.

According to the MEA's bylaws, members can have at least five days to review the contract before voting whether to ratify it.

District officials originally thought the union would decide on the contract in a meeting Thursday. But MEA President Cheryl Lashley said the association is following standard protocols.

"In the 17 years I have done this, there was only once that we held an all-member meeting to ratify a contract," she said.

The School Board members had planned to meet at noon Friday to vote on the contract and call off a state of emergency that's been in effect since Jan. 29. That meeting may be postponed until the union has finished voting, district officials said.

A state of emergency allows the board to be in continuous executive session, meaning it does not need to give the public 24-hour notice before holding a closed meeting. It also allows Superintendent Phil Long to expend funds and waive or suspend the district's educational policies and administrative regulations as needed when dealing with a strike.

"Technically, it's a state of emergency, but we're not actually functioning that way," Long said Tuesday.

The next board meeting is scheduled for March 10. Neither Long nor board members Sally Killen and Jeff Thomas knew whether a special board meeting would be called before that date.

"At this point, we will wait until we hear from the union what their timeline is," Long said.

The tentative agreement is for three years and includes an approximately 7.6 percent cost-of-living raise by year three, 190 contract days a year, flexible prep time, reduced early retirement benefits, and requires teachers to pay 10 percent of their insurance premiums by the third year.

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or Follow her at

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