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Mediation to begin in impasse

Teachers’ union and district are still in “good-faith bargaining.”
By: Bridget Jones Journal staff writer
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Mediation is the next step in the impasse between Auburn Union Teachers Association and Auburn Union Elementary School District. The impasse was declared May 3 after the teachers’ union responded to a proposal from the district. “You get to an impasse when you can no longer agree … and basically what’s happened as far as we’re concerned … is they came at us with a proposal which we didn’t like, because there was a drastic cut,” Steve Schaffer, president of the Auburn Union Teachers Association said. Gloria Maxwell, a fourth-grade teacher at Skyridge Elementary School, was expected to give a report of the union’s opinion of possible budget cuts at Wednesday’s board meeting. “We don’t feel the budget has been fairly represented,” Maxwell said Wednesday morning. The district’s ending balance has grown from more than $800,000 in the 2004/2005 school year, to over $3 million at the end of last year, according to Maxwell. Maxwell said she thinks the district is building up its revenue rather than using it to keep current school programs intact. “They’re just saving this money for the future if there are financial problems,” she said. “We really believe the tax payers’ dollars should go to the children in the classrooms today.” According to Maxwell the union is concerned with two main subjects: how many days are in the school year and how many students are in classrooms in kindergarten through third grade Currently, teachers have five furlough days in a school year and 24 students in grades K-3. Maxwell said the union would like to remove all furlough days from the school year and reduce class sizes to 20 students per teacher in the lower grades. In a March 16 proposal to the union from the district, the district states that it expects a $1.4 million dollar structural deficit by the end of the 2010/2011 school year. In the same proposal the district states that the union’s proportional share of that deficit is $972,000. Through previous cuts the union has saved $390,000, leaving the union to find a way to save an additional $582,000, according to the district. Michele Schuetz, superintendent of Auburn Union School District, said the district is interested in finding a solution that will work for both parties. “That’s what we’ll be working toward,” Schuetz said. “We’re looking at finding ways to help fill the budget deficit in 2012, and we’re having conversation on how that can happen.” A state-appointed mediator will work with the two parties to find a solution, but it is not year clear when mediation will begin, Schuetz said. Maxwell said she hopes her report will express the union’s opinion of the budget disagreement to the district board. “We’re really hoping that the board will be clearly aware of the teachers’ opinion on what the budget looks like,” she said. “The bottom line is we have the money to pay for the programs we have, and it’s just going to add to the reserves to cut them.” Schuetz said she encourages anyone in the community to call the district with questions or concerns. “Even though this seems scary, reality is that the impasse is still a continuation of good-faith bargaining with the two parties, and we will be working with a mediator to solve any differences,” she said. Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com