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School district: Teachers didn't respond when asked to schedule contract negotiations

WILLMAR — The Willmar School Board plans to provide an update at a meeting Nov. 28 on the status of contract negotiations with the district's teachers.

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, the school district said its negotiating team had contacted Education Minnesota-Willmar to set up further negotiations sessions but had received no response from the union.

"This is disheartening as the district would like to negotiate and come to an agreement to settle the contract, but no agreement can be reached if Education Minnesota-Willmar is unwilling to meet with the district," according to the district's statement.

At a public rally Monday, union negotiators said they had contacted the district a month ago. They said they had not heard from the district.

In the statement, the board said they had met twice in closed meetings to discuss strategies for resolving the contract.

The district and the teachers are working on a new contract that should have gone into effect July 1, 2015. They have been negotiating since April 2015.

The update at the board's Nov. 28 workshop meeting will provide information about the status of negotiations and the district's financial condition.

In past negotiations sessions, board members have said they are not willing to spend down the general fund balance, which is needed for cash flow and to handle emergency needs.

The board recently cut nearly $2 million from its annual budget and is preparing to open a new elementary school. The bond approved by voters in a referendum does include funding for furnishing and equipping the building. However, board members have said they want to be prepared to handle any unforeseen expenses involved with opening the building.

At their rally Monday, teacher negotiators said they were seeking a fair and equitable contract.

Union representative Libby Erickson said, "Your district has the money; they can afford what you are asking for, so stay strong."

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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