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updated: 6/27/2011 11:08 PM

Dist. 26, teachers union still at odds

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For the past eight months, the negotiating teams for Cary Elementary District 26 and its teachers union have been unable to agree on a new contract.

Now, both sides disagree over whether negotiations are at an impasse.

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In a brief update during a committee of the whole meeting Monday, school board President Christopher Spoerl said the district is willing to work toward an agreement. The next negotiating meeting date has not been set.

Spoerl said the district and union have met 17 times, the past six with a federal mediator. Both sides have presented seven proposals.

The sides have made progress in terms of some of the language hang-ups, but no progress has been made toward a financial agreement.

Spoerl said last week the district is dedicated to working out an agreement.

"At this point, we would like to respect the process," Spoerl said. "We are trying to get a deal done."

Spoerl said he didn't know if the sides are at an impasse, and he "wouldn't characterize it as anything."

However, members of the Cary Education Association said in an email to the Daily Herald last week that the board had declared an impasse during a meeting June 21.

Chris Maher, a representative of the teachers union, said the Cary Education Association presented a counterproposal on June 21 that the school board rejected. Maher said the union was then presented with documents outlining procedures for declaring an impasse. The negotiation session ended soon after, Maher said.

"If they were truly ready to continue working toward an agreement, then why would they have ended the process on Tuesday," Maher wrote in the email. "Furthermore, when we stated at table that night that we didn't feel we were at impasse, why didn't anyone from the Board of Education speak up and state they would like to continue to negotiate with the teachers."

The board has approved more than $3 million in budget reductions in lieu of $2.5 million in wage and benefit concessions from the teachers union. Those reductions included the closure of Prairie Hill School.

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