State cancels Salem-Keizer teacher contract mediation, pushing … – Statesman Journal

The first mediation session between Salem-Keizer Public Schools and its teachers’ union, scheduled for Wednesday, has been canceled.

The state Employee Relations Board canceled the meeting due to limited staff availability, district spokesman Aaron Harada said.

Teachers in Portland Public Schools went on strike Nov. 1. Two days later, both the teachers’ union and classified union independently requested mediation.

Gov. Tina Kotek stepped in to secure a mediator for PPS to continue negotiations with its teacher’s union. But that came at the cost of Salem-Keizer’s session.

For Salem-Keizer, the move sets back the earliest strike date by four weeks, from Dec. 23 to Jan. 20.

The next mediation session is scheduled for Dec. 6.

Salem-Keizer Education Association, the union representing the district’s 2,300 teachers and other educators, also has canceled a rally scheduled for today.

“We received an email Monday morning from a representative of the Employment Relations Board explaining that they needed to cancel because their staff was supporting so many other groups,” said Maraline Ellis, SEA vice president. “They referenced Portland schools and Yamhill County.

“We reached out to the Salem-Keizer Public Schools bargaining lead to ask if they wanted to go ahead and meet without the mediator, but they declined, she said.

Ellis said teachers are hoping to reach an agreement during mediation.

“We do not want to strike, but we will if we feel there is no other choice,” she said.

Salem-Keizer superintendent ask for mediator in September

On Sept. 26, after nearly six months of contract negotiations between teachers and the district, superintendent Andrea Castañeda asked a state mediator to step in to help reach a labor agreement.

Union officials said they believed the district had acted prematurely.

The last time teacher contract negotiations reached mediation was in December 2004, when both sides declared an impasse and requested mediation. That lasted until March 2005.

Part of the reason the district requested mediation, Castañeda said, is that work to prepare for expected future budget cuts can’t conclude until bargaining is over.

“For us, this is especially urgent because we are already looking at a $38 million deficit at the end of the 2024-25 school year,” she said.

Despite getting a record amount of money from the state in this year’s legislative session, decreasing enrollment, increases in staff and the end of federal COVID-19 relief funds are contributing to the shortfall, Castañeda has said.

The district also is bargaining with the Association of Salem-Keizer Education Support Professionals, which represents about 2,500 district support staff working in custodial and maintenance, transportation, technology, security, library media, instructional and community support, administrative clerical support, language services, student services, and construction services.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Tracy Loew covers education at the Statesman Journal. Send comments, questions and tips: or 503-399-6779. Follow her on Twitter at @Tracy_Loew


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