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ESD, union reach tentative agreement

The Southern Oregon Education Service District and its union have reached a tentative contract agreement that sets salaries, benefits and working conditions for the next three years for more than 100 special-education teachers.

The groups agreed on the three-year contract early Tuesday after negotiating for 12 straight hours in mediation.

"We did it," said Michael Friedl, teachers union co-president. "We both conceded, but we found some good common ground."

Under the agreement, teachers with 15 years of experience or less will receive a pay raise of 6.7 percent for 2007-08, retroactive to fall 2007. Teachers with 16 years of experience will see a 3.35 percent increase in pay.

Teachers' pay will be boosted by 2 percent in 2008-09 and by 2.2 percent in 2009-10. Those with 15 years of experience or less will also receive a 3.35 percent increase for those two years, which teachers call a "step" in their seniority system.

ESD teachers' salaries now range from the upper $30,000s to the lower $70,000s, depending on experience and education.

The agreement also sets a cap of $900 per month for insurance benefits in 2007-08, $940 in 2008-09 and $980 in 2009-10 and extends benefits to domestic partners.

Teachers with more than 16 years of experience will receive an additional $80 per month toward their health insurance benefits.

Negotiations between the ESD and the teachers, whose contract ended June 30, stalled in October in a standoff over pay and benefits. A seven-hour mediation in late January restarted the discussion.

About 65 percent of the ESD's teachers are itinerant, traveling among more than a dozen school districts primarily in Jackson, Josephine and Klamath counties.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.