EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 17, 2013

Windham teacher contract talks stall

By John Toole

---- — WINDHAM — Teacher contract talks are at impasse and headed for mediation.

The announcement from the union is the latest in a string of setbacks for teachers dating back three years, but leaders remain upbeat.

“We feel confident that this third party will help the (Windham Education Association) and the School Board reach the best settlement for the town and the students we serve,” the WEA said in a statement about negotiations.

The School Board also expressed optimism about mediation, a labor process where a neutral party attempts to bring the two sides together.

“We expect the use of a mediator will benefit both parties,” Chairman Mike Joanis said in a statement issued on behalf of the board.

The WEA represents more than 200 teachers.

Three years ago, mediation failed to produce a new contract. Two years ago, a deal was reached, but too late to get something on the ballot for Town Meeting. An effort by teachers to put money aside in anticipation of a contract saw the budget rejected by voters.

This year, voters shot down funding for a three-year pact.

The union would not discuss reasons for the impasse.

“While we have offered multiple solutions to the outstanding matters being negotiated, we were not able to come to a mutual resolution,” the union said.

The union’s lead negotiator, Windham High teacher Ryan O’Connor, said the WEA would not elaborate because the union is still attempting to negotiate with the mediator’s help.

“It’s in both sides hopes we are able to come to a resolution,” O’Connor said. “We are looking for a fair contract that will benefit both sides, so the school district can continue to prosper.”

The School Board would not specify the areas of disagreement.

“Both the WEA and the WSB presented multiple proposals to resolve the remaining items being negotiated,” Joanis said. “To date, we have been unable to come to resolution.”

The union signaled it does not intend to engage in tactics that would hurt students.

“The professional educators of Windham will continue to provide the best possible education for their students despite our differences with the Windham School Board,” the union said.

The School Board said it was thankful teachers continue to provide high quality education during contract talks.

“We expect to achieve a contract proposal that supports teachers, meets the needs of students, and gains approval from our community,” Joanis said.

A mediation session has yet to be scheduled.

O’Connor said the union would like to have a contract agreement in place this December.