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Mediator for Brandon negotiations, teachers called back



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August 15, 2012 - Brandon Twp.- A mediator will assist in contract negotiations between school district officials and the teacher's union.

Superintendent Lorrie McMahon requested the mediator from the Michigan Employment Relations Committee a few weeks ago to participate in a meeting between the Brandon Education Association and the administration on Aug. 17.

"We hope to get a third party, impartial perspective and the mediator will help us over some of the bumps we are encountering in negotiating a contract," McMahon said.

McMahon expected only one meeting with the mediator, who is provided free of charge, followed by a quick opinion. However, she noted there is nothing binding about the mediation.

"I think it's too bad we can't resolve this by ourselves, but I'm glad there is a process to get us through it," said School Board President Kevin McClellan of the mediation. "All the other groups have come with concessions. I was hoping to have the contract settled before the beginning of the school year. I don't think it will be, it's very slow going so far."

The district pink-slipped 31 teachers this spring while facing a budget deficit of $1.4 million. They recalled half last month. During a special meeting Wednesday night, the board unanimously approved the recall of another 13 secondary (7th-12th grade) teachers, leaving four teachers on lay-off. One of those teachers is resigning and taking a position in another district.

McMahon said the district is drawing from fund equity in order to bring the teachers back, reducing the fund balance to about $1.2 million, or 4.5 percent.

"It's a drain on the budget and it's difficult to know how everything will be handled financially in the future, but students need their teachers," McMahon said. "This is one of the reasons we've requested a mediator to help with resolution of the contract. We're still on the right side of the budget and if the teachers help us out, everything will be OK."

The teachers agreed to a contract with the district last June in which they accepted a a pay and step freeze until the end of the contract in June 2012; increased insurance deductibles of $500 for an individual (previously $100) and $1,000 for a family (previously $200); a new prescription drug plan and higher office visit costs. They also agreed to pay 15 percent of their insurance premiums.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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