We're ready; so far, district has not been

The time to settle the contract is now. We're ready. In fact, we've been ready. As teachers, we'd love to be focused right now on our classrooms and students — especially that one or two who need a bit of extra love each day. But the truth is, we can't. We're focused on negotiations. And we're ready.

What we are really ready for is a settlement. We are ready to bargain fairly today. We are ready to critically assess the district's proposals and determine if they establish healthy learning conditions for our students. We expect counter proposals that allow us to retain and recruit the best teachers for our district. We are ready to stand strong for our students at the bargaining table.

It's hard to describe the anxiety of entering into another bargaining session when the board has not significantly adjusted their proposals since last July. In fact, if the district had simply left most of our contract alone and honored their written agreement on additional revenue, we wouldn't be in this situation.

We wouldn't be focused on packing our personal items and supporting each other through the tears. We would be focused on bringing our best to the kids we teach with quality lessons and feedback.

The district went after 118 different parts of our contract, slashing language that has been facilitating a collaborative relationship between teachers, administration, our students, and the community for years. Now it's time to stop this aggressive attack on our professionals and the community; they need to come back to the table ready to bargain. We are ready.

We are shocked to be in this position. What had started as collaborative Interest Based Bargaining turned into a shotgun-style assault on the contract with the presentation of the district's initial proposal. We finally narrowed down the issues to the remaining articles that we see on the table today. We have been ready to settle a fair contract on these issues for months — but the district's version of negotiations has been a "My way or not at all" approach.

If we don't see a change in the board's stance, we are ready to strike. We've been pushed to the wall and we stand united. The district's proposal is bad for kids. It's bad for teachers. It's bad for our schools. It's bad for our community. We are ready to fight for our students.

All is not lost; we still have hope. Hope that the district will choose to invest in teachers rather than in a strike. They have the money — we know it; they admit it. They can take that money and settle the contract today.

We need them to value a fair contract over paying out-of-town subs at $342 a day with hotels, food stipends and travel expenses covered. We need them to choose to invest in their own professionals instead of forcing a strike that will disrupt, divide and waste thousands upon thousands of taxpayer dollars. We need trusted teachers in our classrooms Thursday instead of last-minute substitutes and security guards.

The district is willing to damage and destroy this district and school year in order to "win" at the bargaining table. We know that if they don't meet us with a fair offer on Tuesday, we all lose. We urge you to call the Medford School Board and tell them to stop the strike before it starts. Additional information can be found at our website at www.iTeachMedford.org.

Settle the contract. Stop the strike. Keep teachers in the classroom and students in school. We're ready.

Cheryl Lashley is president of the Medford Education Association.

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