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Consider the aftermath

Contract talks between the Medford School District and its teachers union were set to resume today after a five-day hiatus during a strike that now has lasted nearly two weeks. Beyond the obvious need to reach a settlement, negotiators on both sides must ask themselves what legacy they want to leave once the strike ends.

Animosity has risen on both sides as union representatives, School Board members and Superintendent Phil Long traded statements aimed at presenting their side in the best possible light and portrayed the other side as interested only in obstruction. Both sides are exhibiting this behavior, and both sides should know better.

On a cautionary note, Mail Tribune reporter Greg Stiles has a story in today's paper describing the effects of previous teacher strikes on other Oregon communities. Strikes in Coos Bay, McMinnville and Eugene, in particular, left scars that took years to heal.

Participants in those strikes describe the aftermath with regret, recalling how pent-up frustration caused ordinarily even-tempered people to behave irrationally.

Medford is beginning to experience this. There have been reports of vandalism to School Board members' homes, and one instance of a substitute teacher driving on a sidewalk in an attempt to make his way past a teachers' picket line.

Letters to this newspaper have traded barbs, with teacher supporters calling administrators arrogant and disrespectful, and district supporters accusing teachers of greed in pursuit of increased pay at the expense of students.

Neither side is blameless in this situation, and both sides share responsibility for the strike itself. Now the two factions must consider the legacy they will leave when this is all over.

Medford is the largest city in this part of the state, but it is by no means a teeming metropolis. Neighbors, friends, coworkers and casual acquaintances intertwine on a daily basis. Most of us know a teacher or an administrator, or one of their spouses, or are related to one ourselves.

We all have to continue to live together and to go about our business in a civil fashion when the strike ends. How easy it will be to do that will depend in large part on how much longer the strike drags on.

It may be that it is already too late — that relationships have already been irreparably damaged. We hope that's not the case.

But the teachers and district officials who caused this strike in the first place are the only ones who can end it, and the sooner the better.