Representatives of the Crosby-Ironton School Board and the C-I teachers' union began meeting in a closed mediation session 3 p.m. Tuesday at Ironton City Hall, the first session called since talks broke down March 16.
Though he didn't attend the session, Board chair Scott Kile said he had talked to Superintendent Linda Lawrie during a 9:30 p.m. break and she told him there wasn't much to report on the negotiations to end the C-I teachers' strike, which began Feb. 9.
Kile said Lawrie sounded upbeat and told him they were trying to approach the issue of retiring teachers' health benefits from a different angle. Kile also said the district is hoping to avoid a marathon overnight session.
"I have my fingers and toes crossed," Kile said.
Reached for comment late Tuesday, Union president Stan Nagorski, who wasn't part of the mediation session, said negotiations continued past 11 p.m. but he had no information about possible progress.
Kile said Tuesday's mediation session was a result of the closed session of the school board meeting Monday night at the Deerwood Auditorium. Kile said the board received a new proposal from Education Minnesota Crosby-Ironton last week. Nagorski said Monday the board was given a proposal to "split the difference" between the last offers by the teachers' union and school board to settle the 2003-05 unsettled teachers' contract and end the strike.
Kile said the board was represented at the mediation session by Lawrie, school board attorney Gloria Olsen and board member Mary Nelson. The union was represented by Education Minnesota general counsel Harley Ogata, Education Minnesota representative Greg Burns and Wendy Gindorff, a striking Crosby-Ironton teacher and union negotiator.
Nagorski said he didn't know if the mediation session was called because of the union's latest proposal to the board. The session had been called by the state Bureau of Mediation Services, Kile said.
Crosby-Ironton's 87 teachers have been on strike since Feb. 9. On Monday night, the school board voted to eliminate 35 percent of its striking teaching staff -- 30 teachers -- for the upcoming school year.
While union representatives were meeting at Ironton City Hall with board representatives, C-I striking teachers, their families and supporters gathered for dinner at Gary's Sports Bar and Grill Tuesday for their weekly family night and rally. Speakers included Janet Kujat, vice president of the Minnesota Federation of Teachers, and Mark Doeppner-Hove, vice-president of Education Minnesota.
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