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E.C. elementary teachers, board to try labor talks one last time

February 25, 2001|By MARIO RENTERÍA, Staff Writer

Negotiations between the El Centro Elementary School District board and the El Centro Elementary Teachers Association will have one last shot before teachers decide whether to strike after almost two years of battling with the district board.

The ECESD board has asked state mediators to take failed negotiations with the ECETA to the next step — fact-finding.

Fact-finding is a process in which each of the two sides will elect a person, a representative of sorts, and those two representatives will then elect a third party, who is seen neutral in the dispute, and the three will set up a panel.

The panel of three will hear issues from both sides and after deliberations will come up with potential solutions.

The two parties last met Jan. 31 with state mediator Dave Hart in an attempt to reach an agreement, but the dispute was not settled. The board and the teachers' differences include salary and duties.


Woody Merrill, chief negotiator for the board, said the district has sent a letter to the mediator asking to go to the next step in negotiations. Merrill said the fact-finding process usually leads to an agreement.

The ECETA, in a press release, stated it has authorized its negotiators to prepare for the fact-finding process.

Said board President Ron Hull: "Administration and the school board has made what we believe is a fair offer.

"But it looks like were going to have to go to the next step," he said.

"We would have preferred to settle the dispute on the table," he added.

ECETA president Bruce Roberts said, "We're all hopeful this dispute will be resolved.

"We were disappointed after the last mediation because we felt and were hoping the matter would finally be resolved, but it wasn't," said Roberts.

The sides are not mandated to comply with the recommendations of the fact-finding panel.

If an agreement is not reached a strike could come shortly thereafter, said Roberts.

"We want it to get resolved but we have to be realistic and know that we might have to prepare for a strike," he said.

"We find it distasteful, but it's something we have to prepare for.

"Personally I'm going to start preparing myself for a strike," Roberts said, "and I would recommend it for everyone else, too."

Roberts, though, said an agreement might be reached while the fact-finding process is being implemented.

Staff Writer Mario Renteria can be reached at 370-8549.

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