Lawrence school district, union to meet with federal mediator in attempt to end contract impasse

photo by: Elvyn Jones

About 200 Lawrence school district teachers fill the boardroom of the school district's offices at a negotiation session between teachers union representatives and district officials Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018.

Negotiating teams from the Lawrence school district and the Lawrence Education Association will meet Wednesday with a mediator from the U.S. Department of Labor in an attempt to hammer out a teaching contract for the 2018-2019 school year.

The district and the teachers union have been at an impasse since negotiations broke down on Aug. 29 over salary differences and union requests for assured compensation for hours worked outside of the eight-hour workday, staffing and teacher input on student discipline. The union has asked for a $2,200 increase to the base salary paid to new teachers with no experience. That increase would be reflected in the step increases teachers receive for years of service and higher levels of education. The district has countered with a base increase offer of $500.

The mediation process will start with the two negotiating teams jointly meeting with the mediator in an open session at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the district office, 110 McDonald Drive, said David Cunningham, district legal counsel and human resource executive director. Once that mediator explains the process, the two teams will move to separate rooms for closed sessions with the mediator.

Cunningham, the head of the district’s negotiation team, said he had been through the mediation process in the past with the district. In those instances, the mediator was able to resolve differences between the district and the union during a one-day visit, and he was confident that would be the case Wednesday.

If mediation fails, the district and union can request a fact-finder from a list that the U.S. Department of Education maintains, Cunningham said. The fact-finder will research the dispute and recommend a solution.

A mediated solution or a recommendation from a fact-finder would have to be approved by union membership and the Lawrence school board, Cunningham said.

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