Hopeful statements and a positive attitude from both sides in Medford's teacher strike last week turned sour on Thursday, with negotiations ending abruptly and no definite plan to meet again until at least Tuesday. Meanwhile, students continued to suffer the consequences of spending half days, many in unfamiliar surroundings, with overwhelmed substitute teachers.
At this point, the breakdown in negotiations reflects a failure on both sides of the table. Neither side in this fight has emerged with clean hands, and the community is rapidly losing patience with both the district and the union.
The longer the strike goes on, the more the community will be damaged, and the longer it will take to heal the divisions. Here are a few suggestions for the two sides when negotiations resume:
Get rid of outside influences. Ask the Oregon School Boards Association representatives advising the district and Oregon Education Association staff working with the local teachers union to step outside the room.
Do the same with local members on both sides who refuse to give ground. We're convinced there are School Board members, administrators and teachers who sincerely want to resolve this dispute and end the strike. Let them do that.
If they haven't already, both sides should read the guest opinion in Friday's paper by South Medford High School junior Sofia Nash. It is perhaps the most reasoned, heartfelt plea for reconciliation that has yet emerged from this sorry spectacle.
Especially troubling in Nash's account of the first day of school after the strike began was her description of high school students treating a substitute teacher with contempt and an utter lack of respect. And hers is not the only report of such behavior.
Regardless of the situation, it's inappropriate and parents should let their children know that in no uncertain terms. This, too, can be a learning experience, but the lesson can't be that bullying and rude behavior are acceptable or condoned.
Pointing fingers at one side or the other will not resolve this strike, as Sofia Nash eloquently pointed out.
"In the end," she wrote, "we all want what is best for our students, our teachers and our community. It is time that everyone tries to understand the other side's perspective."
In the end, a high school junior stated what the adults at the bargaining table surely know, but seem to have forgotten in the heat of the moment. Perhaps it's time for them to grow up.