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School district, union agree to mediation

The Medford School District and its teachers union have agreed to seek help from a state mediator in trying to reach an agreement on salaries, benefits and working conditions for the next three years.

Serving about 12,000 students, the district and its 600 teachers have been in negotiations for the past nine months. Teachers have been working without a contract for six months.

The date of the mediation has not been set.

The two parties' disagreement largely is over salary increases and health-insurance benefits. The union's last proposal included a retroactive 4 percent pay raise for 2008-09 and a 2.5 percent increase for the two subsequent years of a three-year contract.

District officials said they can afford to give the teachers a smaller retroactive raise for 2008-09 of 2.5 percent. But officials want to hold off on determining salaries for the next two years until the state Legislaturedetermines education funding for the 2009-11 biennium because of the economic instability around the state and nation.

The district has offered to pay 100 percent of the cost of every full-time teacher's health insurance but only 90 percent of the cost of insurance for spouses and children. They also have proposed phasing out the teachers' early-retirement-incentive program by 2018.