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Good lessons from Rogue River

Medford teachers, school officials must seek compromise

A week ago, teachers gathered in Rogue River with picket signs as they began what proved to be a short-lived strike. Monday, teachers in Medford gathered at their union office to state their case against a proposal from the district.

We hope the lessons learned in Rogue River, where the strike ended in less than two days, are applicable in Medford, where several thorny issues confront the two sides. The biggest lesson is that a strike is a deeply painful experience for everyone, something worth avoiding at any reasonable cost.

The impasse mercifully came to an end after a marathon negotiating session in which the hired guns for both sides stayed out of the room. In the end, it seemed, both sides gave some ground, developed new trust in each other and put the final issues to rest.

The Medford School District goes into its negotiations with the same issues facing many schools. Class sizes have grown, cherished programs have been cut, state funding has failed to keep up with district needs, etc., etc., etc.

The flashpoints in the Medford negotiations appear to center on salary, benefits and some non-classroom work issues like prep time and meetings. Teachers have been in the direct line of fire in Oregon's financial battles over school funding. They've been asked to do more with less for years; district officials need to acknowledge that and make every effort to keep more cutbacks from hitting the classrooms and the teachers who run them.

But the teachers also need to recognize the financial realities; their current health insurance plan almost certainly will change and their salary demands can't be met without reducing staff dramatically.

The district's approach to its negotiations &

8212; keeping them open to the public and posting proposals on its Web site &

8212; is a sign of respect to employees and the public alike. We are all in this together and what hurts one side hurts us all. The possibility of the biggest hurt, a strike, is still remote and everyone involved should move toward common ground to ensure it remains remote.

Drivers of conscienceThe reaction of drivers in Southern California to the addition of hybrid cars with solo drivers allowed in the carpool lane is a micro-picture of why environmental issue are so difficult to fix.

The hostility exhibited by traditional carpoolers who are used to the gravy-train lane being exclusively theirs seems ironic. Didn't they decide to carpool because they were offered a reward to reduce fuel consumption?

Worry about addressing global warming and criticizing the government for lack of effective action on the subject sound pretty hollow if you are unwilling to demonstrate conviction by putting up with fuel-efficient cars in the carpool lane. Too many Americans have a let-the-other guy-sacrifice attitude.

If the goal is to reduce gas prices, air pollution, and dependency on fossil fuels, we need to support change, even if it means carpool lanes are a little slower and more congested.

Studies show that the gas savings on hybrid cars don't offset the extra cost for the cars, so many hybrid owners are driving them as a conscious effort to make a difference. Most other drivers aren't making that effort &

8212; or any effort &

8212; so if they have to slow down a bit, they can count it as their pitiful contribution to the cause.