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MailTribune.com
  • Eagle Point finalizes deal to end strike

    Eagle Point School Board finalizes tentative accord
  • The Eagle Point School District Board Wednesday night voted unanimously in favor of approving a contract agreement between the employee union and district administration.
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  • The Eagle Point School District Board Wednesday night voted unanimously in favor of approving a contract agreement between the employee union and district administration.
    The tentative contract agreement was reached last month between the two parties after 14 months of negotiations culminated in an eight-day strike of more than 250 union employees.
    On Tuesday, the employee union voted overwhelmingly in favor of ratifying the contract, and the School Board's approval was the last hurdle for the contract to go into effect.
    The district revealed that it saved roughly $130,000 during the strike by employing substitute teachers and condensing classes into three campuses instead of a dozen.
    The total cost of strike-related expenses was $391,000, including $61,000 for security and $30,000 in travel and lodging expenses for substitute employees.
    The two sides had argued over whether the district should maintain its power to subcontract out services, whether part-time employees should continue to receive full benefits packages and when teacher prep time occurred.
    After a series of compromises and multiple all-night bargaining sessions, the two teams agreed to ban subcontracting for the first 2 1/2 years of the three-year contract, to pro-rate benefits for part-time employees and to have teacher prep time scheduled at each school.
    Also at Tuesday's meeting, the board voted, 3-2, in favor of censuring board member Mark Bateman for breaking his oath as a school board member after board Chairman Scott Grissom accused him of participating in last month's employee strike.
    An agenda item to ask for Bateman's resignation was removed from the agenda at the beginning of the meeting without discussion.
    Bateman, whose wife is an instructional assistant at Hillside Elementary, said he congregated with striking union members as they protested outside of schools in May, but at no time did he walk a picket line or hold a picket sign.
    "By being on the picket line, it's a show of support," said Grissom, who alleged that Bateman stood outside both Hillside Elementary and Eagle Point High School during the strike. "His presence is a protest."
    Grissom said the fact that Bateman's wife is a district employee is a conflict of interest.
    "I don't think he's fulfilling his role as a board member very well," said Grissom.
    Grissom said he originally wanted to ask for Bateman's resignation, but after Superintendent Cynda Rickert and board member Mary Ann Olsen said they wouldn't support the resignation, he settled for asking Bateman to be censured, or formally criticized.
    In the wake of last month's strike, administration also presented a policy change to the board that would limit the conduct of employees on social media sites used on and off-duty.
    The vague but strict policy states that employees need to be respectful when talking about other employees when using social media sites.
    If the policy passes, an employee who violates it would be subject discipline as severe as termination.
    Board member Jim Mannenbach said he met with a lawyer before Wednesday's meeting and had some reservations about approving the policy.
    "It makes me nervous as a board member," said Mannenbach, who said both he and the lawyer worried that restricting employee conduct while he or she is off duty bordered on interfering with the rights of freedom of speech and freedom of expression.
    The policy was read only by board members, and a no vote was required at Wednesday's meeting.
    Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.
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