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Willmar, Minn., teachers, district headed for mediation

WILLMAR -- Negotiators for Willmar School District teachers and the School Board are heading for mediation Friday at the Willmar Education and Arts Center in an attempt to settle contract talks.

The board conducted a closed session to discuss negotiations strategy after completing other agenda items during Monday afternoon's meeting. State law allows public bodies to close meetings to discuss negotiations strategy. The meetings must be recorded, and the recordings must be made available to the public after a contract is signed.

According to School Superintendent Dr. Jerry Kjergaard, no decision was made after the closed session ended and the open session resumed.

"We just discussed strategy for mediation,'' he said.

Before board members closed the meeting, they received a recap of contract talks between the board and Education Minnesota-Willmar from Liz Fischer, district human resources director.

The board's last offer is for teachers to increase their 7½-hour work day by 30 minutes to an 8-hour day and receive a 6.75 percent total two-year package increase for the 2011-2013 contract.

If teachers do not agree to add 30 minutes to the 7½-hour work day, according to Fischer, the board is proposing no increase.

The teachers' final offer back to the board was for an 8-hour day and an 8.18 percent total package increase, said Fischer.

Also, the board is offering to settle two contracts simultaneously: both the 2011-2013 contract and the 2013-2015 contract, said Fischer.

If the teachers agree to the 8-hour work day and agree to settle the two contracts, the board is offering a total package increase of about 7 percent for the 2011-2013 contract and a 4 percent total package increase for the 2013-2015 contract.

Fischer said teachers did not extend a counter-offer for the option of settling two contracts simultaneously because of the risks involved in settling two in a row. Fischer did not discuss the risks.

Among other action items Monday, the board approved a two-year agreement with the custodian union and approved a two-year agreement with the food and nutrition services union for the 2011-2013 contract.

The total increase in costs to the district for each agreement is estimated at approximately 3 percent.

Board member Wayne Lenzmeier, a member of the Labor Management Committee, praised the agreements with the custodian union and the food and nutrition services union and the negotiators on both sides.

Under personnel items, the board approved the appointment of Paul Schmitz as Senior High principal, replacing Rob Anderson. Schmitz is currently the assistant Senior High School principal.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150