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updated: 9/1/2011 4:45 PM

Cary teachers, union reach tentative deal

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Representatives of the Cary Elementary District 26 school board and the teachers union will meet again next Wednesday to iron out details of a new contract after reaching a tentative agreement late Wednesday night, officials said.

School board President Christopher Spoerl and Cary Education Association President Julia Curry both declined to give more information about the tentative agreement.

"Significant progress was made," Spoerl said. "I don't want to say anything that will prove to be an impediment to the process. We feel we're close to the finish line and we don't want to stumble at the end."

The two sides' negotiating teams will meet at 6 p.m. next Wednesday, Spoerl said.

Curry said the teachers union, which has about 150 members, is scheduled to meet next Thursday to ratify the new agreement, pending a final agreement on Wednesday. "I'm very optimistic," Curry said.

In a joint news release issued Wednesday night, Spoerl and Curry said the two sides would meet again to resolve "outstanding issues." That refers to "a few last points" that are not part of the financial aspect of the contract, Curry explained.

The details of the agreement will be made public after the board and the teachers union have ratified it, officials said.

The parties have met almost 20 times since negotiations began in December. An impasse was declared in July with neither side willing to concede on issues regarding retirement benefits, length of the school day and insurance premiums.

Last month, the board of education imposed its last-best offer less than a week before teachers returned to school for the 2011-2012 school year. Under the imposed working conditions, salaries were rolled back to the 2008-2009 levels, one hour was added to the length of the school day and teacher preparation time was reduced. The previous contract expired Aug. 23.

Cary Education Association member Annette Bear, who was at the meeting Wednesday night, called the process "difficult."

"Late nights and a lot of frustration and hard work," Bear said. "I wish I could tell you it was elation, but I don't think it was actually that. We were just glad to get it done."