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West Fargo teachers try to restart talks

West Fargo teachers and school officials are making last-ditch efforts to come to terms on a contract for teachers. The efforts signal the first advancement in the contract discussions since September when negotiations reached impasse. School Boa...

West Fargo School Board President Tom Genzkow
West Fargo School Board president

West Fargo teachers and school officials are making last-ditch efforts to come to terms on a contract for teachers.

The efforts signal the first advancement in the contract discussions since September when negotiations reached impasse.

School Board President Tom Gentzkow said that on Tuesday the board will discuss in a closed-door session whether to continue negotiating or move on with a mediation team. And while he said it would have been better had they reached an agreement before school started, it's now time to come together.

"I think it's better both parties find common ground so we can move forward," he said.

Representatives of the teachers union say they've tried twice since September to engage School District officials in contract discussions, but they've heard no response.

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"It just didn't happen," said Deanna Paulson, the West Fargo representative for the North Dakota Education Association.

If the teachers and school officials do move forward with a mediation team, the three-person panel will meet soon. Both sides picked a representative last week for the team, which is charged with finding a compromise when both sides reach an impasse.

Paulson said she expects teachers and the board to pick a third person to head the group by today. Then, the panel has five days to begin the process.

"Timelines have gone out the window," she said, adding both sides have been trying last-minute negotiating instead.

The teacher union's representative, Anna Frissell, is the director of the Red River Children's Advocacy Center and was a part of two past teacher contract mediation teams.

The School Board picked Troy Aswege, a former School Board member.

Aswege and Frissell have to whittle down a list of 20 possible people to head the team. Both sides nominate 10 people and they've cut the list in half, Paulson said.

The district's teachers and administrators are without new contracts for the year, but classified staff members - which include food service, paraprofessionals and others - expect the School Board to approve their contract on Tuesday.

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Their contract includes 3.26 percent total compensation raises this year and 5.23 percent increases next year.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515

Related Topics: WEST FARGO
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