Champaign school district, union to bring in mediator

CHAMPAIGN — The Champaign school district and the union that represents its teachers are bringing in a federal mediator as they negotiate a new contract.

The teachers' previous one-year contract expired this summer.

"State law provides that if the parties have not agreed on a new contract 45 days prior to the start of the upcoming school year, mediation can be initiated," a news release from the school district stated. "The board believes that using a mediator can support the process."

School is scheduled to start Monday. Balanced-calendar schools began their year in July.

The school district is "confident that we will reach an agreement," the release stated.

"We know that we have great teachers here in Champaign Unit 4 who are dedicated to the students in our community," the release stated. "We intend to reach an agreement that will be responsible to the community we serve and fair to teachers."

Champaign Federation of Teachers President Cathy Mannen said the mediator will serve as a "third, neutral party to assist with forward progress in negotiations."

She said the school district and union have made process at each bargaining session.

"We felt like it's moving slower than perhaps it could be," Mannen said. "The point of using a mediator is to help facilitate that process through the use of a neutral third party."

The school district and union will not have another bargaining session until a mediator is assigned. Then, sessions will be scheduled to allow for the mediator's schedule.

Mannen said teachers who work at regular-calendar schools will report to work Thursday for teacher institutes. The teachers will continue to work under the union's expired contract until it and the school district can agree on a new one.

The union represents about 850 teachers.

The school district this fall is also negotiating a contract this fall with the union that represents the district's support personnel employees, such as bus drivers, secretary, teacher's aides and more. The support employees' previous three-year contract also expired this summer.

Steve Pease, the president of the Champaign Educational Support Professionals, said the union is looking forward to negotiating with the school district this fall and supports the teachers' union in its effort to negotiate a fair contract.

"We are looking forward to getting back to the table after a slow start," Pease said.

Champaign schools spokeswoman Stephanie Stuart declined to comment on negotiations with the support professionals' union.

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