Medford teachers strike as both parties plan to meet again Saturday

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Thu, February 6 2014 at 8:03 PM, Updated: Fri, February 14 2014 at 6:53 PM

At 6 o'clock Thursday morning, Medford teachers took to the picket line.

The marathon negotiation session which started Wednesday morning at 9am lasted for 21 hours before the strike deadline.

From 7am-4:30pm, teachers could be seen carrying signs and chanting outside the Medford School District offices on Thursday.

Where contract negotiations left off

Two sources told NBC 5 News both sides were close to a settlement, but others said the two parties were nowhere near.

"There was movement but it was not going to get something that would avert a strike," said Dr. Phil Long, Superintendent of the Medford School District.

"If they think there's movement, I am not thinking we were in the same room or in the same building together because there is no movement from the district side," said Cheryl Lashley, President of the Medford Education Association.

However, Long said the characterization that the district isn't budging on anything, is untrue.

"The last written proposal we got from the association was on Wednesday afternoon around 3 o'clock and we didn't see anything else written from them in a written proposal that we could talk about after that," said Long.

He said the district wrote up a counter proposal, waited until 3am on Thursday when the union came back with their offer, then crunched the numbers until 5:30am. That's when they said the union's offer wasn't where it needed to be.

Lashley said the union gave the district multiple offers, a three year option or a one year option for a contract. She said teachers were willing to accept the district's cost of living increase, but for retirement and working conditions, the two parties were still far apart. Working conditions encompasses prep time, as well as how many classes and how many students a teacher has.

District says some movement on salaries

According to Long, there was some movement on salaries. The district is offering an additional one percent in the 3rd of of their proposed contract because they anticipate more funding from the state.

"We've had the best offer for our teachers than we've had for any of our employees," he said, adding that the district has put everything they can financially on the table.

But teachers disagree.

"They're moving money around but there's still no more money out," said Lashley.

District wants reduce class sizes by hiring more teachers

Long said the priority is hiring more teachers last year has payed off and they plan to hire on more teachers to reduce class sizes.

"[The state is] going to release the graduation rates for districts. Ours is up as a district and all three of our high schools are up so we know these targeted investments are important. We need to be able to hire people to do that. If we give all that funding in raises then we have fewer people serving our kids and we're not going to be able to get the results that we need for our kids," said Long.

But Lashley isn't so convinced that the district will have enough money to hire more teachers. She said the better option is to invest in teachers already in the district.

What's next?

Meantime, the district and teachers are scheduled to meet again on Saturday to see if they can come to a compromise. School will be closed Friday and Monday with class starting back up on Tuesday.

For more information:

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

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

Terms teachers previously said they've taken issue with include salaries, pensions, working conditions and early retirement. Contract negotiations have spanned about a year.






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About the Author

Christine Pitawanich

Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.

Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.

Catch Christine anchoring weekdays on NBC 5 News at 5pm.

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