Metro-East News

August 7, 2014

'Significant breakthrough': Highland District 5 revises offer to teachers

Teachers report progress has been made in the negotiations between Highland District 5 and the Highland Education Association.

The district has revised its offer, agreeing not to cut health-care coverage for teachers.

Union president ShiAnne Shively called the offer "a significant breakthrough."

"This gives us a chance for the teachers and the board to reach an agreement in the next weeks and avoid a strike," she said.

Highland's teachers and administration have met with a federal mediator at least twice, with another session scheduled for later in the month. The district is currently under a strike notice, but teachers could not strike until after the contract expires on Aug. 31.

Highland Superintendent Mike Sutton could not be immediately reached for comment.

Shively said there are still a lot of issues remain, including language prohibiting harassment of teachers, teacher evaluations, salaries and retirement benefits, as well as services for special education students.

The issue of harassment of teachers -- what Shively termed as "bullying" behavior by administrators -- also came up in a recent school board meeting. While Sutton said he believes it to be a separate issue, there is proposed language in the contract negotiations that Shively said would give teachers greater protections in reporting such issues.

"We must continue to make significant progress at the next mediation session," Shively said.

The two sides will meet again for mediation on Aug. 20. Shively said after that session, the teachers will meet and determine their direction. "There are still some very important issues that are unresolved," she said.

Regardless, the 174 teachers will report to work on Aug. 12, with school beginning Aug. 13.

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