SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. - Update: Teachers and the school board will meet separately Friday after the two sides failed to come to an agreement in a nearly eight hour mediation session Thursday.
“It became really clear early on that they would not move off the imposed terms, the imposed working conditions, even with significant movement on our side, we were unable to get them to move off of those imposed terms,” Kathy Murphy, Chief Negotiator for the South Burlington Educators’ Association said.
The board says an offer was made on Thursday night.
“We’re open to continuing to talk, we’ve given them an offer, but they say they’re done,” Martin Lalonde of the South Burlington School Board said.
SBEA members say they will meet Friday at 3:45 p.m. at the Frederick H. Tuttle Middle School Library to decide on their next steps.
Thursday night, South Burlington's school board and teachers' union entered a mediation session, in an attempt to settle contract terms, and avoid a teacher strike.'
After ten months of negotiations, the school board imposed contracts on the first day of school. Three weeks ago, the teachers union rejected those terms, and urged the board to rescind them.
Ahead of Thursday night's mediation, dozens of teachers took to the picket line, but it wasn't just South Burlington educators that could be seen.
Burlington teachers also joined; teachers there just ratified contracts after a four-day teacher strike last week.
Fran Brock, President of the Burlington Education Association, says the two cities have consulted one another.
"Their talks are local, our talks were local as well. What they will discuss in their contract needs to be shaped to fit the needs of the South Burlington community, but we're here to support them," said Brock.
When asked if South Burlington teachers and board members were prepared for a strike, both sides declined to give much insight.
"So our membership is gonna make that decision as we move forward. We're gonna meet tomorrow to discuss our next steps," said Noah Everitt, spokesman for the South Burlington Educators' Association.
Martin Lalonde, a clerk for the South Burlington School Board, said deciding to strike "in in the teachers' court."
"I certainly hope that that does not happen because of the disruption to the community," said Lalonde.
Back when teachers rejected the imposition, Everitt said they wanted to get back to the negotiating table to agree on a settled contract for the current school year, and didn't want to begin negotiating next year's contract until this year was resolved.
Lalonde said the board would go to the negotiating table for year two, but wanted to move on from this year's contract discussion. Everitt said teachers wanted to be more involved in the process.
"Imposition of working conditions is unacceptable because it changes the game about how pay is distributed and how health care is decided without the consent of both sides and to seek equity in that and changing that fundamental principle is the problem we had," said Everitt.
Lalonde defended imposing contracts on teachers on the first day of school; he said the board did not want to enter the school year without them.
"Starting the school year out without a contract, without terms, leaves uncertainty for our budgeting process. It also puts us at a disadvantage, the school board and the community that we represent, as far as further negotiations," said Lalonde.
Local 22 & Local 44 will continue to follow this developing story.
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