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Milton teachers union makes a statement at rally, board meeting

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Stacy Vogel
April 29, 2008
— Milton’s teachers union doesn’t want to hash out contract negotiations in public, its chief negotiator said, but it did make a public statement at a rally and school board meeting Monday night.

Dozens of Milton Education Association members showed up at the board meeting and a rally beforehand wearing yellow shirts, hoping to encourage the board to “return to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith,” according to a news release issued by the union Friday.


Many carried hand-made signs with phrases such as “Teachers want to Talk—Board wants to Balk,” “Keep our quality teachers” and “Let’s talk.”


Teachers have been working under a contract that expired June 30.


The school district filed for mediation April 8. It hasn’t agreed to meet with the teachers union since the union submitted its latest proposals Feb. 28, said Dale Langer, chief union negotiator.


“From our viewpoint, (mediation) is totally unnecessary,” Langer told The Janesville Gazette. “We feel we just need to get the board to sit down and get back to the table.”


But Wilson Leong, chief negotiator for the school board, said the time has come to bring in an impartial judge.


“We’re at a point where we’ve met and we’re constantly talking about the same things, and if there’s no movement and no proposals of how it can move forward, that’s when we have to call someone in who is, in my terms, a referee,” he said.


It could be months before a mediator becomes available. The board is willing to meet before the mediator arrives, but only if the teachers union is willing to move closer to a compromise, Leong said.


The main issue dividing the two sides is salary schedules, both Langer and Leong said. Both the school board and the union have made salary proposals, and the union hasn’t indicated any willingness to move closer to the board, Leong said.


“There didn’t appear to be any movement from (the union’s) perspective, and from our perspective it appears that most of the movement has been from our side,” he said.


But teacher David Bendlin told the board that working conditions are also upsetting the teachers, especially high student-teacher ratios at Northside Intermediate School.


He warned the board that teachers might not support a referendum to build a new high school in the future if the board isn’t willing to address their concerns now.


“You should not assume you will have our support if you are unwilling to even discuss problems of class size at other schools and do what you can at this time to solve these problems,” he said.


It’s not unusual for Milton teachers to be without a contract nine months after the last one expired, Langer said.


Negotiations for the last two-year contract weren’t completed until January 2007, a year and a half after the previous contract had expired.


Langer said he hopes the latest contract can be settled before the end of the school year, when a new superintendent and several new teachers will start.


“We just want to get it wrapped up and move on,” he said.



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