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Medford School District saved $69,000 a day 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 more than $724,000 ahead on the budget.

At a board meeting Monday night, Brad Earl, the district's chief financial officer, presented budget amendments to the board, including a list of strike-related expenses that totaled $2.055 million.

During the strike, the district paid $910,000 in salaries to substitute teachers. The district also paid $220,000 to teachers who crossed the picket line and those who were on disability leave (such as maternity leave). This figure includes stipends ranging from $500 to $2,000 for 46 administrators, managers and confidential employees who put in extra hours. Earl, Superintendent Phil Long and Director of Human Resources Karen Herwig, who has since retired, did not receive stipends.

Other strike-related expenses include $400,000 to hire 85 security guards; $75,000 for supplies, postage and advertising for substitutes; and $450,000 for lodging, meals and transportation for substitute teachers, as well as for renting conference rooms at the Inn at the Commons and Rogue Regency Inn for bargaining sessions.

The board declared a state of emergency Jan. 29, giving Long the power to spend funds and waive or suspend the district's educational policies and administrative regulations as needed during the strike. The state of emergency was called off March 10.

"The (budget amendment) gets the budget back in line with our actual spending for the year," Earl said.

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.

While teachers' salaries typically cost the district about $265,133 per day, the cost of the strike came out to about $195,714 per day for a savings of $69,000 per day.

This number is based on a 101/2-day strike. Although the strike lasted 11 days, teachers worked an extra half day on Sunday, Feb. 23, to get schools reopened.

However, the district's gain was the teachers' loss. A new teacher receiving "base pay" lost about $1,896 in salary while on strike, while a teacher at the peak of the pay scale lost about $3,572.

"The higher you were at on the pay scale, the more of a hit it was," said Cheryl Lashley, president of the Medford Education Association.

Earl said the $724,500 savings 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.

"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."

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) — Read 180, Math 180 and the Edmentum Stars Suite — 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, due to the extra funding, will be addressed sooner.

Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.