A mediator will join teacher contract talks in Seattle today, which both sides hope will help them resolve their remaining disagreements and avoid the possibility of a teachers strike.
The negotiation teams from Seattle Public Schools and the city’s teachers union agreed Friday to bring in a mediator from the Public Employment Relations Commission, said union President Jonathan Knapp.
“We’re just finding it hard to find agreement on some of these issues,” he said today.
Knapp declined to give any details about what’s under discussion, saying the union made a commitment to the district to remain silent at this point of the negotiations. In recent weeks, both sides have said the main disagreements center on how to use test scores in evaluating teachers, whether to add 30 minutes to elementary teachers’ official workday, the size of teacher raises, and the size of caseloads for school staff such as psychologists and physical and occupational therapists.
Negotiators met into the evening Friday, stopping at about 9:30 p.m. The talks are supposed to resume today at noon. School is scheduled to start Wednesday.
Seattle teachers have not taken a strike vote. The union has scheduled a general membership meeting for Tuesday afternoon, when they could vote on a tentative agreement, if one is reached, or decide what to do if they don’t have one. One option is to work without a contract. Another is to strike.
City officials announced Friday that 20 community centers will provide free activities for low-income children if a strike occurs. Here’s a news release from the city with all the information about registering for those programs: http://alerts.seattle.gov/2013/08/30/city-to-provide-free-drop-in-activities-at-community-centers-for-some-public-school-students-in-event-of-school-strike/