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Both sides appear optimistic as Moorhead teacher contract talks enter mediation

Remaining sticking points between the teachers union and school board for the two-year contracts include benefits for all teachers and compensation for early childhood educators and adult education teachers.

Moorhead School Board meeting
Moorhead teachers and their supporters packed the room for Monday night's school board meeting prior to contract negotiations. The teachers have been working without a contract all year. (WDAY)

MOORHEAD — Teachers in Moorhead have worked without a contract since their latest contract expired in June, and negotiators for both sides were scheduled to hold their first mediation session Wednesday, Jan. 29.

Teachers asked for mediation after 10 regular negotiation sessions were not enough to resolve differences, marking the first time in many years that mediation has played a role in Moorhead contract talks.

Remaining sticking points between the teachers union and school board for the two-year contracts include benefits for all teachers and compensation for early childhood educators and adult education teachers.

Blake Plankers, president of Education Moorhead, said the union believes early childhood and adult education teachers should be paid similar to what general and special education teachers receive.

In addition, he said, teachers are asking that special education teachers be given more time to deal with paperwork demands.

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According to Plankers, the union and the school board are essentially in agreement that the salary schedule be increased by 2% each year of the new two-year contract.

In addition, he said, the union would like the district to contribute more to health insurance premiums, noting that the district's contribution in that area has not increased in 10 years.

Plankers said teachers are also asking the district to increase its retirement contribution from matching up to 3% of a teacher's salary to matching up to 4% by the end of the two-year contract.

Both sides expressed optimism heading into Wednesday's mediation session.

In Minnesota, if teacher contract talks do not result in an agreement, school districts may impose a contract.

Unlike in North Dakota, public employees in Minnesota, including teachers, have the right to strike. There were no indications that a strike was being contemplated in Moorhead.

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com.
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