Teacher strike to drag into next week

, Posted: Fri, February 14 2014 at 6:18 PM, Updated: Fri, February 14 2014 at 6:52 PM

Medford, Ore. -- The Medford School District and teachers will not meet again with mediators until Tuesday.

It's a sign of what's been a grueling and emotional week for both sides.
On Thursday night, the district and teachers were seemingly close to an agreement on teachers contracts, but still there was no deal.

"If you were here two hours ago I was very optimistic. The district took a bold move and put $4.5-million on the table to help deal with an early retirement incentive that the union has insisted is imperative," said Dr. Phil Long, Superintendent of the Medford School District during a press conference on Thursday.

"We obviously have a great difference of opinion. We are disappointed that the district has called it for this evening," said Cheryl Lashley, President of the Medford Education Association.

Both sides are frustrated after failing to come to a compromise yet again.

"I'm startled by the fact that that's where we were today," said Long, who revealed he was planning to welcome teachers back to their classrooms on Monday.

"I'm really saddened that it's ended the way it has tonight," said Lashley.

The continued lack of agreement means the teachers strike will now drag the strike into its third calendar week. Teachers began striking on February 6th at 6am.

"Really the students are suffering more than anyone else," said Marcus Laabs, a senior at North Medford High School.

Both sides are at their wits end. The district said they've put up all the money they can.

"We do not have the money to meet the current offer that the MEA has on the table. It will bankrupt our district," said Long.

On the other hand, teachers claim accepting the district's three-year contract offer would mean they'll be taking home less pay in their third year in comparison to the second year.

"The district is so focused on getting a three year contract that it is missing an opportunity to settle," said Lashley.

The failure to come to a compromise is a sobering reality that the two sides are still far apart on key issues.

Meanwhile, the district is reporting attendance is dropping. On Tuesday, the first day of class, Long said attendance was at about 68%. On Wednesday and Thursday it was 52% and 48%.

Both sides have not been able to find compromise on teacher contracts for roughly a year now.

For more information:

Medford School District - http://www.medford.k12.or.us/Index.asp

Medford Education Association - http://www.iteachmedford.org/

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