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Mediation hasn’t yielded contract yet for teachers, Wichita school district

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, June 29, 2012, at 11:16 a.m.
  • Updated Monday, March 11, 2013, at 1:48 p.m.

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Two days of closed-door sessions with a federal mediator have not resulted in a contract agreement for Wichita’s 4,000 teachers, a union official said.

“At this point, mediation is done. … We are considering our next step,” said Randy Mousley, president of United Teachers of Wichita.

Representatives for the Wichita school district and the local teachers union met with a federal mediator for two days this week after declaring an impasse in negotiations last month.

A new contract is set to begin Aug. 1.

From the start of negotiations in March until late last month, the sides had not discussed salaries and made little progress toward consensus on such issues as teacher evaluations, attendance, lesson plans, dress code, classroom discipline and professional development.

Teacher contract negotiations are public, open meetings. After an impasse is declared, however, a federal mediator is assigned to work with the teams, and negotiation sessions are not open to the public.

District spokeswoman Wendy Johnson said in an e-mail that the teams agreed not to discuss specifics until an agreement is reached.

“At this time there are no additional meetings scheduled,” she said in the e-mail. “When there is an agreement we will be glad to discuss details.”

In early proposals, union officials asked for a 3 percent salary increase and a return to raises — plus back pay — for additional education or experience, known as steps and tracks. They also sought fewer work hours outside the classroom, including professional development days.

District leaders proposed freezing teacher pay at 2008 levels, requiring more detailed lesson plans, establishing guidelines for professional dress and getting tougher on teachers who are chronically absent.

Wichita school board members met in an executive session Monday evening and again Wednesday afternoon to discuss matters related to contract negotiations, but no action was taken. The board is not scheduled to meet again until July 9.

In an update to members on the United Teachers of Wichita website, union officials pledged to continue “fighting for all teachers in these negotiations.

“We have not given in or given up. It is not pretty and it definitely is not fun,” officials posted on the site. “We believe strongly that Wichita teachers deserve a much better contract than the BOE has agreed to the last four years.”

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com.

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