Teachers and the school district could reach a contract agreement as early as the middle of next week, predicts the state mediator working with the Berkeley Federation of Teachers and the Berkeley Unified School District. “Over the course of the last two meetings, the parties have moved significantly closer to agreement,” mediator Ron McGee said in a statement released late Wednesday night. “I am cautiously optimistic that the parties will be able to reach agreement at the next scheduled mediation session on May 24, 2000. Therefore, I am extending the total press and information blackout for one week.”
The two sides met for more than 14 hours Wednesday, and two school board members even broke away from part of their regularly scheduled meeting in the evening to participate in the continuing discussions.
It’s not publicly known what each side is offering. A document released by the district at a public budget workshop last week indicated that a salary increase of $665,000 for the current fiscal year was figured into the budget projections. But it wasn’t clear how old that offer was or what had been presented by the teachers union.
The document also indicated that $1.9 million was being targeted for salary increases in the 2000-2001 fiscal year, which begins July 1. Those increases presumably would cover all unions, not just the BFT.
The first interim budget for the 1999-2000 fiscal year reported teachers’ salaries as being a total of $22.1 million, so the $665,000 increase would be a 3 percent increase.
McGee’s announcement will extend the “blackout” on information, which has been followed rather well by both sides. Wednesday night, no one showed up to speak about the contract issue, a sharp contrast from the two previous regular board meetings, which featured scores of parents and teachers protesting.
The union and the district reached an impasse in March over the contract negotiations. Teachers currently have a contract that continues through 2001, but the deal allows such issues as compensation to be reopened each year. The current “reopener” began more than a year ago.