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Jordan school board, teachers at an impasse

Published: Saturday, Aug. 1 2015 8:12 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Repeating a pattern that has played out two of the past three years, negotiations have stalled between the Jordan Education Association and the school board. That means federal mediators will step into the fray over the impasse.

At issue in this dispute are teachers' continued ability to have a voice in negotiations that are related to students' learning environments and employee working conditions.

Jennifer Boehme, president of the Jordan Education Association, said Tuesday the dispute now gets batted to Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, which will facilitate discussions over a two-day period. The time frame for that to happen, however, is uncertain because it depends on scheduling. The office handles disputes throughout the Western United States.

Boehme said the ability for teachers to have a voice in negotiating policies, such as how incidences of abuse or assault are dealt with is critical, and is part of the tradition of the district going back to 1969.

The board, she said, would not budge on that issue nor guarantee that already negotiated policies would remain intact.

In a statement posted on the district's website, the school board said it had presented a "generous" offer of $5.5 million in salary and benefits, despite fiscal challenges.

Jordan district spokeswoman Sandy Riesgraf said the salary offer came on top of an unsolicited bonus distributed to all district employees last November, and that the board is genuinely striving to balance teacher pay with quality education.

"Our board really does value our teachers," she said.

But Boehme said the board would not provide assurances for additional salary boosts in the 2013-2014 school year, impacting the ability to retain quality teachers.

“We are concerned that the district’s unwillingness to consider salary increases for the 2013-14 school year puts the district at risk of losing quality teachers to surrounding school districts that are providing increases,” said Boehme. Because of budget shortfalls, Jordan School District teachers agreed to forgo regular salary increases during two of the past three years.

Riesgraf said the expectation for more money in another budget cycle can't be met because the board doesn't know what additional fiscal challenges will play out at that point.

"The money that is realistically there has been given to them."

Boehme said it is too early to tell if the stalled negotiations will be resolved when the school year begins in a few months.

It was the end of the July in 2009 before agreement was reached in negotiations, she said, and not until September of 2010 when that hearing process concluded.

Such negotiations are not likely to impact the actual start of the school year or teachers' return to the classrooms.

Boehme said teachers could  begin the new academic year absent a contract in place — as has happened before — but if the association prevails in salary negotiations through mediation, those dollars would have to be made up by the district at a later date.

E-mail: amyjoi@desnews.com Twitter: amyjoi16

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