For the first time in seven weeks, Lawrence teacher and school board representatives will sit down at the negotiating table Friday. And this time, a mediator will join them.
Carl Wallmark, a mediator from the Kansas City, Mo., field office of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, has been appointed to assist in negotiations, which have bogged down over teacher salaries.
Wallmark and negotiators will meet at 9 a.m. Friday at the Lawrence High School library, 19th and Louisiana.
The negotiating teams of the Lawrence school board and the Lawrence Education Assn. last met June 13. A week later, after LEA negotiators had talked with about 115 Lawrence teachers, the LEA negotiating team declared impasse.
The school board team has proposed increasing the base salary for teachers by nearly 1.4 percent. The LEA has proposed a 3.7 percent increase in the base salary.
THE BASE SALARY is used to determine salaries for all teachers in the district. The board's proposal would raise the starting salary from $18,905 to $19,160. The LEA's proposal would raise the starting salary to $19,607.
Both sides have agreed that teachers would receive the automatic pay increases that come with longevity or additional graduate study completed. To implement those increases, the district would have to put an additional $335,700 into salaries, a 1.9 percent increase over what went into salaries last year.
The earlier teacher negotiations had been open to the public. However, the mediation process does not fall under the state's open meetings law, and Friday's talks will be closed.
Wallmark, who has been a mediator for nearly 23 years, said the presence of the press can "inhibit the bargaining process." However, Wallmark said, he does encourage negotiators to let the public know where talks stand following each session.
IF NEGOTIATORS do not reach agreement through mediation, then a fact-finder will be sent to help the district. The fact-finding procedure is a more quasi-judicial process than mediation, with each negotiating team presenting a case for its proposal.
"It's not so much a matter of working with the parties to reach a compromise as the fact-finder determining what the terms of a fair contract should be," said Monty Bertelli, senior labor conciliator with the state Department of Human Resources.
Bertelli said negotiators must first decide if they want just one fact-finder or a board of three fact-finders.
"Most of the time they opt for just one because of the expenses involved," Bertelli said.
If negotiators want just one fact-finder, the Department of Human Resources provides the district a list of five qualified fact-finders.
THE NEGOTIATING teams then alternate in striking names off the list until they are down to one fact-finder.
The LEA and board teams would have to split the fact-finder's fee. If both negotiating teams could not agree to the fact-finder's proposal, the school board could issue unilateral contracts to teachers. The Lawrence school board last issued unilateral contracts in 1984, which was the last year negotiations went to impasse.