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YME to ask legislators to consider forgiveness for penalty

GRANITE FALLS -- Yellow Medicine East is among the schools which failed to reach a teacher contract agreement by the state deadline, and is now facing a $25 per pupil penalty.

With a student enrollment of slightly more than 1,000, the penalty will cost the district an estimated $25,000.

Superintendent Al Stoeckman said the district will ask local legislators if the state would deal with the district's impasse as a special situation, and forgive the penalty.

He said the district had negotiated in good faith with the local bargaining unit of Education Minnesota.

The two sides left the negotiating table with a tentative agreement, but the teachers rejected the contract offer on a vote taken Wednesday.

School board members planned to meet Thursday and ratify the agreement in time to meet the deadline, according to the superintendent.

The contract offer was overwhelmingly rejected by the instructors, according to information provided the district.

Kim Sandry, chair for the YME Education Association, said there was a tentative agreement to bring the offer to a vote, but the negotiators didn't necessarily agree with offer made by the district.

She called the vote a difficult decision. She said the teachers voted as quickly as possible after receiving the offer so that there would still be time to meet before the deadline.

The board declined to meet again, she said.

Both sides agreed to keep the terms of the contract offer confidential. Both the superintendent and teacher's representative said the issue was strictly financial and pertained to the salary offer made in the contract.

Superintendent Stoeckman said the district went into the negotiations aware that neighboring school districts had settled on contracts calling for either "soft'' freezes, such as in Montevideo, or a "hard'' freeze and no salary increase in Redwood Falls.

The contract negotiations affect 70 full-time equivalent instructors, including teachers in the YME schools as well as those employed through the Minnesota Valley Education Cooperative, which provides special education services.

Both sides are not likely to return to the bargaining table any time soon.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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