D9 schools to open while bargaining continues

Bargaining teams were unable to reach an agreement on Thursday to end the strike in our school district. The teams will return to bargaining with the help of a state mediator on Tuesday, May 15. Schools will remain closed again on Friday as we continue preparations for reopening on Monday. On Friday, substitute teachers will work in classrooms and judge Senior Spring Board presentations at the high school. Principals expect to work late into the night to ensure that their buildings and operating procedures are ready for our students on Monday.

In addition, we will announce plans for student bus service on Friday. Bus schedules will be posted along with other information about the school schedule on the district website, www.eaglepnt.k12.or.us.

Our educational program will look different on Monday, with consolidated schools, however our curriculum will remain focused on core skills. Schools will have high-quality programs with a range of services based on students’ abilities. All teachers, including union members who are crossing the picket line, are licensed and certified in Oregon. Besides transportation, schools will continue to provide meals for students.

The union continues to urge its picketers to confront all employees going to work. District 9 is working closely with law enforcement to ensure that schools remain safe and secure.

Two issues continue to divide the bargaining teams. One is instructional time for our middle and high schools. The district’s offer would allow school staffs to adjust schedules in ways that could reduce class size, improve student performance and better meet state requirements.

The other remaining issue is proration of insurance for employees – that is, linking the level of district insurance benefits to the hours an employee works. Currently, a small number of employees work less than full time, but receive full insurance benefits, in some cases amounting to more than the employee’s salary.

The district has proposed that all employees working 7 hours or more a day would receive 100 percent of the district’s insurance benefits, amounting to more than $12,000 a year. Those working 4 to 7 hours a day would receive a lower percentage, depending on the number of hours worked.

The union, on Thursday, declared they wanted to maintain full insurance benefits for less than full time work and no longer supported proration. This position is not sustainable financially and siphons funds away from the classroom.

Our bargaining team will keep working for a contract that protects a full school year of instruction, reduces class sizes and keeps teachers working. We want to do this in a way that fits within our budget and protects the taxpayers’ investment in education. We will return our schools to normal operation as soon as these goals are achieved.

The mediation session scheduled for May 10, 2012 ended without a settlement this evening. The Eagle Point Education Association proposed additional reductions to current contract language, but the proposal was rejected by the school district. The next mediation session is scheduled for 9:00 a.m., Tuesday, May 15, 2012.

“We are extremely disappointed that the district continues to refuse to meet us half way,” said Dave Carrell, President of the EPEA. “Tonight, the district had the chance to end this strike. Instead, they have put the quality of education for Eagle Point students in jeopardy.”

District 9 educators and supporters will be gathering at the district office 3:00 p.m., Friday, May 11, 2012 to ask the Superintendent and school board to settle a fair contract.

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