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Medford teachers plan to picket school board's executive session

The Medford School District braces for an impending teachers strike, to commence Feb. 6, while remaining optimistic that the teachers union will be willing to continue contract negotiations.

Today, in accordance with Oregon law, the Medford Education Association notified the district of its intent to strike in 10 days. This decision came after the union's bargaining team walked away negotiations last Friday, saying the district was unwilling to budge on its latest contract offer. The union announced its intent to strike late Saturday.

District officials and the school board will meet tonight for an executive session to discuss what needs to be done to ensure that schools continue to serve children — no matter what. The closed-door meeting will be held in the district board room at Central Medford High School, 815 S. Oakdale Ave., Medford.

During the meeting, Medford teachers and community members will picket on sidewalks outside the high school.

"Our voices will not be silenced," MEA President Cheryl Lashley said in a news release. "This isn't business as usual — the board is trying to shut down our schools. They have the money to settle a fair contract. They have the ability to keep teachers in their classrooms and avert a strike. It's time to invest in teachers — our kids are worth it."

According to a district news release, substitute teachers have received threatening phone calls from union members. An Oregon Education Association official said teachers were in class and unavailable for comment at the time of this story.

The teachers and the Medford School District have been negotiating for nearly a year and have yet agree on several monetary issues, including compensation, pension contributions and early retirement benefits, as well as on teacher preparation time and the length of the contract.

— Teresa Thomas