K-M school district headed to mediation
KASSON — After reaching an impasse on negotiating an agreement for teachers' salaries and benefits, the Kasson-Mantorville School District will be heading to mediation within the next couple weeks.
Kasson-Mantorville Education Minnesota (KMEM) — an affiliate of Education Minnesota teacher union — filed for mediation from the state as of yesterday, after the school board and the organization failed to reach an agreement during Wednesday's negotiations session.
"We are very optimistic that we can come to a resolution that both sides can agree on and that is fair for both parties," said John Vossen, a fourth grade teacher and KMEM co-president.
As of now, there is no set date for when the mediation could take place. However, it could possibly happen within the next few weeks.
Negotiations between KMEM and the K-M school board have been ongoing since April 2015. In January, the board requested that the union present the proposal of a 7.07 percent increase over two years to the membership. Overwhelmingly, the union voted down that proposal, according to KMEM.
This included salaries and benefits for all the teachers and staff, using supporting data from surrounding area districts such as Byron, Triton and Pine Island, Vossen said. If agreed upon, the negotiated total package would be a two-year agreement.
"There were around 30 or more language issues in the master agreement," said Matt Nelson, a sixth grade teacher at K-M Middle School, and KMEM negotiator. "The school board has been very gracious in what they've offered. We just don't think it's fair for all our members. We just want to make sure that it matches up for the whole membership. Some things have offered us, we agree with. We're just not quite there yet, we're not very far apart."
The mediation process involves having the state appoint a mediator who would then help moderate discussions between the two parties to help reach an agreement.
However, it's different from arbitration, which is a binding agreement where the arbitrator would make the final decision for any involved groups.
"We want to be comparable to other districts that have settled, and be fair to all our teachers," Nelson said. "The board has offered some nice things...we feel our package is very fair and does not in any way endanger the financial stability of this school district."
The district's school board confirmed that KMEM indicated filing for mediation, and hopes to reach an agreement.
"Kasson-Mantorville school board and administration believes we have outstanding teachers," said Kent Harfmann, school board chairman in a statement. "They don't let this negotiation affect their commitment to the excellence in the classroom."