Two Crosby-Ironton School Board members and two leaders of the C-I teachers' union met at a Brainerd restaurant Sunday in an attempt to reopen communication between both sides as the teachers' strike enters its fourth week.
Board chair Scott Kile said he and board member Mike Domin met with union president Stan Nagorski and chief union negotiator Doug Mayfield Sunday. They were brought together by a third party, a concerned citizen, both sides said.
Contrary to rumors flying around the Cuyuna Range, Kile said a settlement is not imminent, but the meeting was a relatively positive one.
"It went as well as it could be expected," said Kile. "We were not negotiating the contract. We didn't make any agreements. The rumors that a settlement is imminent are not true. It was an informal get-together to explore ways to open talks. It did help clear the air somewhat. It's always good to keep some sort of lines of communication open."
Nagorski said it was a cordial meeting and "most helpful" in bringing both sides back to the negotiating table.
"There were some steps taken in the right direction to get us together," said Nagorski. "I've been more optimistic in the past 24 hours than I have been in the last six months or more. It was just a very matter-of-fact, frank discussion of what we need to do. Yesterday there was some real serious communication and we're really grateful and appreciative of that."
Kile said the school board planned to meet in closed session to discuss negotiations Monday night at Ironton City Hall. He said he and Domin would talk about their meeting with union leaders at the board meeting.
"I want to see it settled," said Kile, of the teachers' strike, which began Feb. 9. "We're losing students. Late last week we'd lost 82 students (who have enrolled in other school districts), but I suspect it's higher than that."
The four men had a tentative plan to meet again at 8 a.m. Tuesday at an undisclosed location, but Nagorski said he received a call from Kile just before 10 p.m. Monday following the closed board meeting. He said Kile told him he and Domin did not receive the endorsement of the board to meet with them again.
Kile could not be reached for comment late Monday night.
"I'm very, very disappointed," said Nagorski. "We were very optimistic we could bring the two parties together and start talking."
"To their considerable credit, they stuck their necks out, they agreed to meet with us yesterday afternoon and set up this meeting," said Mayfield, of Kile and Domin. "They want this strike over and they agreed this might be a good way to do it, the two of them, the two of us. ... We've got two guys who clearly want to do the right thing. They were frank and forthright in their comments to us as we were to them. I think we could have resolved this had we been able to meet a couple of more times. The four of us believed we could do it. It's just a terrible shame."
Third-graders return to school
C-I Superintendent Linda Lawrie said third-graders returned to school Monday and the district's goal is to return kindergarten and fourth-grade students to school by the end of the week.
Lawrie said Monday afternoon she wasn't sure how many third-graders returned to classes at Cuyuna Range Elementary School, but there were "a lot of smiling faces" at the school Monday. Lawrie said the high school pep band will join the boys' basketball team at Thursday's semifinal game for the first time. She also said choir students will soon head to sections for their music competitions.
Residents gather in Deerwood
In Deerwood Monday night, about 300 community members gathered and formed six committees to do what they can to resolve the teachers' strike and quickly return children to school.
On Monday night, an estimated 300 people gathered at the Deerwood Auditorium to work together as a group to end the teachers' strike. The group broke up into six committees, elected committee chairs and set initial committee meeting dates and times. The committees established included those that encourage both sides to accept arbitration, encourage both sides to get together and talk on a daily basis, lobby for legislation in support of arbitration and making teachers essential employees who cannot strike, work for mutual respect and common decency and ways to heal and restore the community, support 2005 graduating seniors, and facilitate extracurricular activities for students during the strike.
There is not another community meeting scheduled at this time since audience members collectively decided they would work in their committees and didn't need to meet any time soon.
Prom planned for April 9
The Brainerd Dispatch incorrectly listed the time of a hearing hosted by Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan, chair of the Minnesota House Education, Policy and Reform Committee, as the result of incorrect information supplied to the Dispatch. The hearing will be 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Deerwood Auditorium.
Education Minnesota President Judy Schaubach will speak at 6:30 p.m. outside of the Deerwood Auditorium.
The Dispatch regrets the error.
It was announced at Monday's community meeting that prom has been set for 8 p.m. to midnight April 9 at Ruttger's Bay Lake Lodge, organized by parents and students. If the strike is settled before the prom, the grand march will be held at C-I High School. If the strike is still going on, the grand march will be held at Ruttger's. Tickets for prom are $35 for a single person and $70 for a couple. Tickets are available at the Crosby-Ironton Courier.
Kile said he congratulates the C-I Rangers boys' basketball team for its win over the Aitkin Gobblers Saturday, especially for playing under such trying circumstances. C-I will play third-seeded Moose Lake-Willow River 7:45 p.m. Thursday at Grand Rapids in the Section 7, Class 2A semifinals. Fan buses will leave for the game at 5:45 p.m. Thursday from Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby. Cost is $10 per person. For more information or to sign up, call Kim Taylor at 545-8820.
Legislative hearing planned
Rep. Mark Buesgens, R-Jordan, chair of the Minnesota House of Representatives Education Policy and Reform Committee, will host a hearing at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Deerwood Auditorium. C-I residents are invited to provide testimony to the panel on the effect the nearly monthlong strike has had on children, families and the community.
Teachers host weekly rally
The teachers' union will host its weekly family night rally Tuesday night at Gary's Sports Bar and Grill in Ironton. Dinner will be 5 p.m. with doors opening at 4:45 p.m. After dinner, speakers will include Rep. Matt Entenza, DFL-St. Paul Minnesota House minority leader, and Sandra Peterson, DFL-New Hope and former co-president of Education Minnesota. Friends, family and supporters of the teachers' union are welcome to attend the rally.
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