Thursday, September 20, 2001

Mason teachers ask to resume contract sessions

By Sue Kiesewetter and Sarah Buehrle
Enquirer Contributors

        MASON — Stalled contract talks between the Mason Board of Education and the teachers union will resume soon, board members promised Wednesday night.

        More than 275 members of the Mason Education Association, wearing green T-shirts, attended Wednesday's board meeting to request a return to negotiations. Two weeks ago, the association's membership voted 397-29 to reject a proposed contract.

        It was the second proposal rejected since July.

        “It is fully our intent to continue the bargaining process,” said Marianne Culbertson, president of the school board. “Our hearts are in this district, as are yours.”

        Teachers said it is up to the board to set the next bargaining session. The union has not received a response to a Sept. 10 letter requesting more bargaining, said Maria Correale, union spokeswoman and a high school teacher.

        “Our desire is not to disrupt the function of the district or the community,” Ms. Correale said. “We are dedicated to the children and families of this district.”

        She said the two sides are divided on issues related to working conditions, including binding arbitration and salaries. No specifics have been disclosed.

        MEA President Jenny Fox said she was not surprised by the board's decision.

        “These are good people,” she said.

        Ms. Correale said the MEA would be open to a new round of meetings with a federal mediator. Bargaining began in May, and an impasse was declared earlier this summer. Both sides had met with a mediator.

        The MEA's two-year contract expired in June. Teachers have been working since under the terms of that contract. There are about 468 teachers in Mason.

        All but about a dozen are MEA members, said Jerry Schrock, a member of the bargaining team.

        About 83 percent of the teaching staff has been hired in the last five years, school officials said. District enrollment is more than 7,100.


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