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Teachers, district progress on deal

Negotiations between the Bemidji School District and the Bemidji Education Association on teaching contracts for the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years have taken a new turn.

A table agreement was reached around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday after an all-day meeting between representatives of the two groups and a mediator with the state Bureau of Mediation Services.

"Both sides have agreed they would take a package back to their respective groups for review and either give a thumbs up or thumbs down," said Jordan Hickman, the school district's director of human resources.

Before the Bemidji School District's Board of Education can vote on whether to approve the contract deal, the BEA's Negotiations Council, a committee that guides the BEA's negotiators, will first need to vote on whether to approve the contract proposal.

If the vote passes, the BEA's Executive Board then takes a vote, followed by a vote from the BEA's general membership.

If all three BEA groups approve the contract deal, then the school board would vote on whether to approve the contract deal.

According to Hickman, this is the first time the entire contract proposal has been taken back by BEA representatives for review. Previously, individual items within the contract proposal were taken back to the group for consideration.

"The ultimate authority to accept or reject the contract offer rests with the membership of union and with the school board," he said.

So far, BEA representatives have met with school district officials 13 times, including once with a state mediator, in an effort to reach a tentative agreement.

Every two years, school district teachers have the opportunity to renegotiate the terms of their contract. Teaching contracts operate on a two-year term, beginning July 1 of each odd-numbered year.

The district's negotiations team includes Board of Education members John Pugleasa and Bill Faver, district administrators Hickman and Chris Leinen, and Superintendent James Hess.

The BEA's negotiations team consists of Mary Kobilka, Ami Aalgaard, Tim Mayclin, Rob Strand and Jason Keoster.