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updated: 11/28/2012 2:29 PM

Dist. 220, teachers union awaiting mediator

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Barrington Unit District 220 board members and teachers union representatives are awaiting the assignment of a federal mediator to help resolve their stalemate in negotiations of a new contract.

The first session with the mediator will kick off a consecutive 15-day period of negotiation overseen by the neutral third party. Not until this period is over without reaching an agreement can an impasse be declared and teachers move closer to a potential strike.

But the mediation process can go on as long as both parties believe progress is being made.

"It is prescribed by law now how the process will progress," District 220 spokesman Jeff Arnett said Wednesday.

Melanie Collins, president of the Barrington Education Association which represents the teachers, said a mediator works by acting as a go-between for the two negotiating teams, who will sit in separate rooms.

District 220 board President Brian Battle said he believes mediators have the flexibility to employ different personal styles, but that the "go-between" approach was one that worked well in 2009.

"We had a pretty positive experience when both parties went to mediation three years ago," Battle said.

Bargaining teams from the board of education and the Barrington Education Association have been working toward a new teachers contract since March. The last three-year contract expired Aug. 31.

Battle said both parties have agreed to keep the outstanding issues in closed session, but he personally believes they are close to an agreement.

At the conclusion of Tuesday's bargaining session, the union announced that it would seek assistance from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service -- a request the board of education then joined.

The request was not formally made until Wednesday morning, however. It remained uncertain how long it would take a mediator to be assigned.

Last month, the Barrington Education Association voted to authorize a strike should one be deemed necessary. Collins said that under the present time frame, a strike isn't legally possible until about mid-January.

District 220 teachers last went on strike in 1980.

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