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CCSD, teachers union to resume talks in bid to avoid strike

Updated August 27, 2019 - 5:55 pm

Teachers and the Clark County School District will return to the bargaining table Wednesday despite the district seeking a court order to stop a threatened strike, the union’s executive director says.

The meeting also may be attended by a representative of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service after the union announced Monday night it had agreed to mediation.

John Vellardita, executive director of the Clark County Education Association, said the union accepted mediation because the agency offered it with no conditions, but added that union representatives would be at the bargaining table regardless of whether a mediator is present.

“We would love to resolve this at the table,” Vellardita said.

The school district also expressed hope in a news release Tuesday that an agreement could be reached in mediation to avert the strike scheduled for Sept. 10.

In an interview with the Review-Journal later in the day Superintendent Jesus Jara said the district nonetheless went to District Court on Monday to seek the injunction to stop the strike, which would be illegal under state law.

“We filed to settle the community,” Jara said.

An initial hearing on the district’s request was scheduled for Sept. 5.

In the meantime, Jara said he hopes the two parties can make progress, but he declined to say whether the district intended to make any new offers to the union on Wednesday.

Obtaining an injunction would later enable the court to impose fines of $50,000 per day against the union in the event of a strike, fine officers deemed responsible for the strike up to $1,000 per day and allow the district to dismiss teachers from their jobs, according to state law.

Speaking at an education roundtable with school district staff and students Tuesday, Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro said he supported teachers should they choose to strike, adding that penalties for public employees on strike are unfair.

“We should ensure that our educators are well-compensated and, just as importantly, that our schools have the resources they need to teach our children what they need to learn to be successful,” he said. “There should be more latitude in the ability of workers to strike.”

Jara said he’s working with district officials to search for funding to cover the district’s offer of one-time money for teachers owed professional development raises, though the district said in a news release that the union had rejected the proposal.

The district previously said the offer was contingent on coming up with the money and the union committing to develop a new professional development system.

The district’s Professional Growth System, which provides for pay raises for teachers who have completed courses or activities intended to improve their classroom skills, has emerged as a key issue in the dispute. The district’s proposed model requires teachers to earn more than a master’s degree in order to advance, a model the union has rejected.

Whether a federal mediator can find a middle ground on the matter remains to be seen, Vellardita said.

Mediation has no set schedule or number of sessions. The process could go on until the night before the scheduled walkout or be over in an afternoon, according to Vellardita.

“The length of mediation will be based on progress; if there is no progress, mediation will have a short shelf-life,” he said.

Vellardita said the union will not back down on the professional development issue, as the district had made a commitment three years ago to advance teachers on the salary table if they earned master’s degrees.

“This process with the district has not been in good faith,” Vellardita said. “When it starts with the other party reneging on a promise they made, how can it be in good faith?”

Contact Aleksandra Appleton at 702-383-0218 or aappleton@reviewjournal.com. Follow @aleksappleton on Twitter.

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