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Mediator to help ACSD negotiate teachers’ pact

MIDDLEBURY — Addison Central School District board members and educators have picked veteran arbitrator Ira Lobel to serve as mediator in an effort to resolve an impasse in negotiations for a new teachers’ contract.
Lobel, has more than 30 years’ experience as a federal mediator and has helped resolve hundreds of labor disputes in eastern New York, western Massachusetts and Vermont. Lobel is scheduled to begin the mediation process with ACSD school directors and teachers this Thursday, June 15. It will be the first time the two sides have spoken since they confirmed the contract impasse last March, according to district Superintendent Peter Burrows.
“The mediator is being brought in to hone in on the specifics for both sides and work to bring them together,” Burrows said. “Ira has a lot of experience doing this.”
Burrows described the mediator’s role as “someone who doesn’t take sides and who is able to come in objectively and work to find middle ground.”
ACSD and representatives of the district’s three teachers’ unions have been negotiating in open session since last October. The three unions — the Middlebury Education Association, Middlebury Education Teachers Association, and Addison Central Education Association — are negotiating together for a single agreement to cover the recently unified district’s combined 230 teachers. Those educators work at Middlebury Union middle and high schools, as well as the graded schools in Bridport, Cornwall, Middlebury, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham and Weybridge.
The teachers’ current three-year pact extends through the end of this month. If a deal is not forged by then, teachers would work under terms of the expired pact and any gains made in a new agreement would be made retroactive to July 1, officials said.
ACSD negotiators declared impasse because they felt their respective sides were far apart and were not making adequate progress toward a new pact. Lobel will try to help the two sides reach compromise on three major contract areas: Pay increases, health coverage and length of school day.
If a mediator can’t further the talks, the next step would be to bring in a fact finder to review board and union contract proposals and compare them to data from around the state and region. The fact finder would then recommend resolution for the disputed terms of the contract proposals.
“I think the board and the teachers are looking forward to getting to an agreement,” Burrows said.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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