Clock ticking on teachers, PPS contract negotiations

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by Wayne Havrelly, KGW Staff

KREM.com

Posted on February 2, 2014 at 10:20 AM

PORTLAND -- The clock is ticking and tensions are rising. With the threat of a Portland teachers' strike looming, KGW spoke with some of the districts' top college-bound students who were competing this weekend in the Bonneville Power Administration's annual Science Bowl at the University of Portland. 

Benson Polytechnic students won the prestigious event back in 2001 and have a strong team once again this year. 

"Whatever the teachers decide to do, I'm in support of because I know they are doing this for the good of the students and our education," said Theo Nguyen, the captain of Benson's science bowl team.

"The teachers have been reminding us that their websites are up and they will be there to help us even if there ends up being a strike," said Abigail O'Brien who is on Franklin High School's science bowl team.

After a 14-hour mediation session that ended early Saturday morning, both the teachers union and school district officials failed to reach a deal.  Neither side returned our calls Saturday.

KGW contacted Mayor Charlie Hales' office and learned the mayor has talked to both sides and explained how hurtful a strike would be to the entire city.  However, unlike past mayors, he told KGW he will not be getting involved in the negotiations.

According to the district, the major sticking points are teachers salaries, the hiring process and the length of the school year.

While tensions appear to be rising, some of the districts' top students see a strategy behind the ongoing negotiations. 

"From the sound of it, there won't be a strike because it would be disastrous to the school system," said Devon Straub a four-year science bowl team member with Benson Polytechnic.  "Most likely it's going to be kind of like a filibuster, where a strike doesn't actually happen, but it's being threatened and because of that something is going to happen in response."

The teachers are scheduled to make a strike vote on Wednesday, Feb. 5.  If teachers authorize a strike, the earliest they can stage a walkout is ten days later, on Tuesday Feb.18.

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