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County Office of Education teachers at an impasse, mediator requested

March 07, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

Teachers employed by the Imperial County Office of Education presented their concerns to the county school board at its meeting Tuesday after an impasse was declared Friday over certificated employees' contract negotiations.

Teachers from the Office of Education carried signs that read "Children first" and "We teach the hard to reach."

The school board met in closed session to discuss the impasse and negotiations. No action was taken.

An impasse is declared when the negotiating parties cannot reach a satisfactory resolution. The Office of Education has filed with the Public Employment Relations Board, which will appoint a state mediator to help achieve a resolution.

The declaration of impasse came after negotiators were unable to reach an agreement regarding the percentage increase to the salary schedule and proposed additional work days for the teachers.

Denise Smith, human resource director and a member of the negotiating team representing the Office of Education, said the additional work days would be for staff and teacher development.

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Glenice Waters, a California Teachers Association representative, presented the school board with two letters that stated the teachers' association's concerns regarding personnel and the contract negotiation process.

Several of the concerns addressed in the letters were the changes to the Office of Education's negotiating team, various changes to the contract as well as the apparent lack of movement in the negotiation process.

Although Waters described the teachers' association members as being "frustrated" at the declaration of impasse, she expressed the hope that with the help of the state mediator an agreement might be reached quickly.

"We're not that far apart," Waters stated.

The county employs 59 teachers, a spokeswoman said.

That number includes those who teach severely handicapped students as well as students in alternative education programs throughout the Valley.

During the meeting, county Superintendent John Anderson praised efforts of the teachers and staff employed by the Office of Education, pointing out several teachers in attendance for specific recognition.

Waters complimented Anderson for recognizing the quality of the teachers.

"We're very hopeful that the mediator will assist us in reaching a resolution," Smith said. "We're proud of the teachers' work. They work with challenging students, and we're very proud of their work."

Two area school districts also are at impasse over contract negotiations: the El Centro Elementary School District and the Calexico Unified School District.

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