School board decides on mediation
The board met for about 90 minutes this morning as it made the decision, Superintendent Tom Evert said.
Mediation is now tentatively scheduled to begin Monday, Feb. 11.
The two sides seemed sharply divided after their last meeting Jan. 21, but leaders from both sides had a civil discussion Friday and discussed the possibility of getting together Wednesday, said Jennifer Fanning, co-lead negotiator with the teachers.
Fanning made that statement Monday, but she and other union leaders could not be reached before The Janesville Gazette’s deadline this morning, probably because they were teaching.
Evert said the board this morning discussed a Wednesday meeting but rejected it because of an “ultimatum” the teachers issued.
The “ultimatum” said that if the board was not willing to accept the teachers’ salary offer, there was no point in meeting, Evert said.
“In keeping with the spirit of the JEA directive, the board then determined to go forward with the mediation process,” Evert said.
Evert and some school board members said recently they believe their own salary offer is more than fair.
The board’s most recent offer was an increase of 3.31 percent for each cell of the salary schedule in each year of the two-year contract.
Because most teachers advance on the salary schedule each year, the actual raises would range from 3.31 percent to more than 6 percent.
The Janesville Education Association’s latest offer was 3 percent per cell in 2007-08 and 5 percent in 2008-09.
A union fear is that mediation is a legal step that ultimately could lead to the board imposing a qualified economic offer, or QEO, which would be a 3.8 percent increase in the cost of salaries and benefits combined. A QEO would work out to a much lower salary increase than either side is proposing.
But Evert said the board is optimistic that mediation would lead to a voluntary settlement rather than a QEO.
Both sides said previously that they believed they were getting close to agreement when they met Jan. 14. Evert indicated he would like to build on previous discussions and on apparent agreement on some issues during mediation.
“We’re ready to start early and stay late on Feb. 11 to get a voluntary settlement,” Evert said. “A voluntary settlement has been our goal since we started negotiations.”