Talks break off in Medford teachers strike

MEDFORD, Ore. — Talks in the Medford teachers strike have broken off, and attendance has fallen below 50 percent.

Bargaining ended late Thursday afternoon, and the two sides didn’t schedule a time to resume, The Medford Mail Tribune reported.

Both sides said there’s a chance they will meet with a state mediator Tuesday.

Union President Cheryl Lashley said the school board is fixated on winning a three-year contract, which teachers don’t want.

Superintendent Phil Long said teachers have made only an insubstantial effort at compromise.

The strike began last week. Schools were reopened Tuesday with substitute teachers, half day-schedules and attendance at 68 percent.

That fell to 52 percent Wednesday and 48 percent Thursday.

At North Medford High School, dozens of students stood on picket lines with teachers, and the attendance rate was 36 percent.

Medford is the state’s eighth largest district, with an enrollment of about 13,500.

“This has been an excruciatingly difficult week for our community,” Long said. “It’s not what we want to be doing, but we’ve got to keep our school open. We got kids who want to continue their educations, parents who need them in school, and we’re going to do that.”

Dan Jones, vice president of the Medford Education Association, said the board’s bargaining position amounts to a cut for teachers.

“We are unwilling to accept a proposal where teachers are making less in one year than the year before … and that is the board’s current offer,” he said. “We are currently being held hostage by a board that cares more about winning than they do about our kids.”

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