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Teachers, School Board heading to arbitration?

January 26, 2011 | 08:55 AM
Walworth — For more than a year, teachers at Big Foot High School have worked without a contract as negotiations between the union and the School Board have stalled.

It appears the two groups will have one more chance to reach an agreement before an outside arbitrator is brought into guide negotiations.

Union President Michael Manghera, who teaches math, said the school and the union have reached agreements on pay for the 2009 school year.

However, the division begins with the 2010 contract, Manghera said. School Board President Sue Pruessing agreed.

On Dec. 22, the Teacher's Union filed a request for arbitration. During a closed session meeting on Monday night, the board discussed the progress of the negotiations.

Pruessing said she is optimistic the two groups can reach an agreement. However, she said she didn't want to say too much publicly before the two groups met.

"It's not that far, we're very optimistic we can come to an agreement," Pruessing said.

She also said it costs the district money to bring in an outside arbitrator, which she would like to avoid.

On Tuesday morning, Manghera said he was informed the School Board would like to try one more time to reach a resolution. He said the union, which represents 44 members, is willing to do that.

Manghera said the offer the school has presented to the union is the lowest in the Southern Lakes United Educators Union, which represents 52 bargaining units.

"The board has consistently stayed with the same offer and didn't want to offer any more," Manghera said.

District Administrator Dorothy Kaufmann said the school first offered the union a 3.5 percent increase in pay and benefits for both years. For 2009, the district is now offering the teachers a 4.1 percent increase in total pay and benfits.

For 2010, Kaufmann said the union is asking for a 3 percent increase in pay and a 3 percent increase in benefits. He said teachers at Big Foot High School are in the middle of the pack when it comes to pay. However, if they accepted this agreement they would move to a lower tier.

When asked, Manghera said teachers still deserve raises during tough economic times.

"With good times we saw very minimal gains, which is essentially what we are asking for now," Manghera said.

Tensions in the building?

Pruessing said she doesn't believe tensions over the negotiations are comparable to what the district experienced in the past.

Manghera said tensions haven't reached the levels they have in the past when the two groups didn't reach an agreement.

However, he said as a sign of solidarity the teachers are wearing all black on Wednesdays. They also are displaying union stickers in their cars and wearing union buttons.

"We are waiting to see where it is going to go," he said.

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