Medford School District saved $725,000 during strike

While teachers were on strike for 11 workdays in February, the Medford School District paid more than $2 million to keep schools open and the district running, but still came out ahead on the budget.

In February, district officials estimated that operating the district during the strike would cost between $57,840 and $101,473 less per day than operating it on a normal school day.

In the end, the total savings was $69,000 per day, Brad Earl, the district's chief financial officer, reported at Monday night's board meeting.

The total savings was $725,000, after teachers were paid for a half day at the end of the strike to prepare for the return to class.

"It's a one-time savings, as in we don't anticipate doing this every year," Earl said. "In general, those funds are being used as capital for expenditures the district has."

The money will be transferred from the district's general fund to its special revenue fund where it will be applied to a variety of student-related purchases and facility maintenance projects.

Student-related purchases include new ovens ($40,000) for South Medford High School's culinary classroom, 500 Chromebooks ($250,000) for students to use primarily for online testing, and curriculum software ($382,000) for targeted interventions.

Earl also met with Jeff Bales, the network-telecommunication services manager, and Mark Button, the facilities manager, to prioritize projects on the district's long-range facility plan, including refinishing the gym floors at Central Medford High ($41,000), replacing a generator at North Medford High ($35,000), repairing the sprinkler system at Jacksonville Elementary ($160,000) and replacing copiers at North and South ($50,000), to name a few.

Earl said each of these projects was on the district's to-do list but, with this savings, will be addressed sooner.

During the strike, the district paid $910,000 in salaries to substitute teachers, teachers who crossed the picket line and staff not represented by the Medford Education Association. This figure includes stipends ranging from $500 to $2,000 for 46 administrators, managers and confidential employees who put in extra hours and worked weekends. Earl, Superintendent Phil Long and Director of Human Resources Karen Herwig, who has since retired, did not receive a stipend.

The district also was legally bound to continue to pay unionized teachers who were on disability leave — a total of $220,000.

Other strike-related expenditures included hiring security guards and paying for lodging, meals and traveling expenses for substitute teachers. The total cost of the strike was $2.055 million.

The board declared a state of emergency Jan. 29, giving Superintendent Phil Long the power to expend funds and waive or suspend the district's educational policies and administrative regulations as needed.

"We covered it (the cost of the strike) out of our general fund," Earl explained. "At that time, the board had declared a state of emergency which allowed us to be nimble during the course of the strike."

The board called off the state of emergency March 10 after approving a new labor contract with teachers.

At Monday's board meeting, Earl presented budget amendments, accounting for these costs.

— Teresa Thomas

Read more in Wednesday's Mail Tribune.

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