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Teachers' union to vote on contract offer Wednesday

Reaching a deal on teaching contracts for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school year currently rests in the hands of the local teachers' union.

Two leadership teams with the Bemidji Education Association have approved the latest contract offer from the Bemidji School District. Now, BEA members will have an opportunity to vote on the contract offer on Wednesday.

If the BEA members approve the contract offer, the school district's Board of Education will meet the morning of March 7 to vote on the tentative agreement.

"After 13 meetings, two of them being with a state mediator, we were able to come to some terms the (BEA) was willing to present to their respective party," Jordan Hickman, the district's director of human resources, told board members.

BEA President Paul Goodwin could not be reached for comment.

The district's negotiation team has met with other bargaining groups this winter, but many have been unwilling to move forward until the contract negotiations between the BEA and the school district are resolved, Hickman said.

"That's pretty much typical in most public organizations where you have one group that represents a vast majority of your staff and a number of other groups that represent much smaller numbers of your employees," he said. "They typically want to see what happens with the outcome of the largest group before proceeding."

If the school board approves the tentative teaching contract agreement next week, Hickman said he expects negotiations between other bargaining groups to rapidly pick up.

"I would expect we will be moving forward with reaching other agreements and bringing them to board consideration in the near future," he added.