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District, union equally frustrated with lack of movement in negotiations

Medford School District and union bargaining teams will check in with state mediators this afternoon to prepare for an all-day negotiating session Wednesday, district officials said.

The district was scheduled to meet with state mediators at 1:30 p.m.

Negotiations will take place at neutral locations so state mediators won't be forced to cross picket lines. The Medford Education Association will bargain from the Ramada Medford Hotel, and the district from Rogue Regency Inn.

MEA members "fully expected to bargain with the district today" and are frustrated, said Rebecca Konefal, an Oregon Education Association representative, in an email today.

"The district bargaining team had four days to craft a counter offer to the association's last proposal," she said in the email.

However, the district is hoping the association will open Wednesday's bargaining session with a more "substantial" offer, said Superintendent Phil Long Monday evening.

State-mediated negotiations were held Wednesday and Thursday last week at the Inn at the Commons.

On Thursday, the district proposed to extend the early retirement benefit to June 30, 2015, rather than end it March 31, 2014. Long said this would affect about 30 teachers who are close to retirement and would cost the district about $4.5 million.

In a counter proposal late Thursday afternoon, the MEA offered to reduce a teachers' stipend from 3 percent to 2.5 percent. The stipend was for teachers with at least 17 years of experience.

Long said the reduction was equivalent to about $60,000.

"That will not get a contract solved," he said in press conference later. "That mortgages our kids' future."

Phone calls to Medford Education Association representatives this morning were not returned.

In her email, Konefal said the district planned to hold a press conference today at 3 p.m. A spokesman for the district said no press conference was scheduled, adding that Long had offered to speak to media groups individually this afternoon.

— Teresa Thomas