Federal mediator suspends talks with Dayton schools, teachers

The federal mediator who has been working with Dayton Public Schools and its teachers union suspended mediation for the months of June and July on Tuesday, putting the Aug. 15 start of the school year in question.

The two sides have been in contract negotiations since January, with the teachers taking the issue to the public in the past month with rallies and walkouts from school board meetings.

The school year ended almost two weeks ago, so Tuesday’s news does not have any immediate impact on students.

RELATED: What to watch for if Dayton teachers go on strike

A statement from the union Tuesday night said the decision was a result of “extremely limited progress” during an extended period of mediation.

“The Dayton Public Schools are in crisis,” said David Romick, president of the Dayton Education Association. “The Board has failed to compromise with Dayton teachers repeatedly. As educators, we are seriously concerned about student learning conditions, and are fearful that the continued lack of leadership at Dayton Public Schools have forced negotiations closer to the start of the school year, placing an on-time return to school in jeopardy.”

RELATED: DPS teachers: No strike now, but August possibility ‘very real’

Superintendent Rhonda Corr took some issue with the idea of “limited progress,” but agreed that as of Tuesday, the sides seemed to be “at a stalemate.”

“When I came to the table there were hundreds of issues that still needed to be addressed, and we’re down to less than 20. So we’ve made great progress,” Corr said, declining to go into detail about the remaining issues. Union officials put the number of remaining issues at “two dozen to three dozen.”

Both sides said they are eager to get back to negotiations. Corr said Tuesday night that she hopes the mediator changes gears and decides to bring the parties back to the table before August.

Four years ago, DPS and its teachers came to the start of the school year without a contract, but the teachers agreed to keep working under the terms of the expired deal, and a new agreement was reached in December.

RELATED: DPS, teachers cite some progress, as union rallies again

This time, the teachers have been carrying signs saying, “No contract, no work.” Romick said Tuesday that without a contract, the teachers cannot work, repeating the DEA motto of this spring that “teacher working conditions are student learning conditions.”

“Nothing would make Dayton teachers happier than to move back into their classrooms and get back to the matter at hand,” Romick said. “However, with many key provisions unresolved, the timing of that return to classrooms is an unknown. It is essential that we get this right.”

RELATED: Dayton teachers vote to authorize strike if talks don’t ‘improve’

The teachers union has already given its negotiating committee authority to call for a strike vote if the committee feels it is necessary.

“We want to avert a strike as much as we can,” Corr said. “That’s the last thing we want. We want to try to reach a contract, but both sides are going to have to be at the table to negotiate. And just like any other negotiation, it’s a give and take.”

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