Talks resume, district prepares for strike

After more than eight hours Tuesday, the Medford School District and the union representing its teachers ended a state-mediated negotiating session with no new agreements and no scheduled date as to when the sides would meet again.

The sides did not meet face-to-face during the day, according to Alex Pulaski of the Oregon School Boards Association, who was speaking for the district representatives at the meeting.

Pulaski did say, however, that the sides did exchange new proposals during the sessions that began at 1 p.m. with Oregon Employment Relations Board mediators and broke for the day shortly before 10 p.m.

Medford School District representatives, meanwhile, took steps to prepare for the potential of a Feb. 6 strike.

Superintendent Phil Long said the district had offered a new proposal, but declined to say how it differed from the district's Jan. 14 proposal.

Issues in the labor contract that are still up for debate include preparation time, compensation, early retirement benefits, insurance caps and the length of the contract.

The mediators' role is to encourage movement toward compromise from both teams, an Oregon Education Association official said.

Meanwhile, district officials say they are "absolutely" preparing for the possibility of a strike but cannot unveil specifics at this time.

"If we get to the point that it is clear that we are headed that way, then we will communicate what our plan is," Long said.

District administrative leaders, including school principals and vice principals, met Monday afternoon to outline what the district's response would be in the event teachers follow through with a threatened strike Feb. 6.

The Medford Education Association gave the district 10 days' notice of its intent to strike, as required by law, on Monday.

The district announced Tuesday afternoon that it has begun recruiting K-12 Oregon licensed teachers from around the state to fill in for teachers in the classroom if there is a strike. It posted an advertisement for substitute teachers on its website saying it would pay about $171 per five-hour shift and a per diem for expenses and weekly round-trip mileage reimbursement.

"We are ready for a settlement and to go full bore with our regular program, but if there is a strike, we will be ready to implement our plan," Long said.

The Medford School Board will meet at 11 a.m. today to make resolutions in preparation for the possibility of a strike.

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4479 or by email at Follow her at

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