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Other Views: No winners in dispute between teachers, district in Williston

Williston Herald, Williston

The ongoing battle over salaries and benefits between Williston Public School District No. 1 and the union representing the teachers came to a disappointing end Thursday when the school board voted to impose its final offer on the teachers.

The fight between the two sides lasted months and left a bitter taste in the mouths of all who were involved.

We are disappointed the two sides never could agree, but the rules in place in North Dakota ultimately give the final say to the school board, and last week the board exercised that right.

The good news is the fight is now over, and the teachers and the district can get back to doing what they are tasked to do — educate children.

The bad news is the contract teachers will be deciding on is for just one year. With two months of this school year already passed, it won’t be long before the two sides will once again be meeting to discuss salaries and much more.

Before the two sides get together again, we have a little advice. No. 1 and most important, use your words wisely.

The school board does not hate the teachers. It is not trying to force them to choose between paying rent and eating. It is not trying to force experienced teachers to leave town.

On the other side, teachers do not just work half a year. Although schools are closed over the summer, most teachers never stop planning and working to get better. The teacher’s union is not greedy and is not trying to bankrupt the district.

In the fight that just ended, both sides compromised s great deal. The district increased teacher salaries more than it wanted, and the district came way down from its initial request. The negotiation process worked.

Unfortunately the words used during the process led to hurt feelings and may lead to teachers leaving Williston.

Our biggest hope is that the negotiations won’t reach this level again.

With this episode of the saga over, we offer one final suggestion. Both sides should take a deep breath, take a break from each other, and maybe in a month or two get back together and start working on a contract for next year.

The state commission that looked at the issue agreed the teachers were underpaid, but the members said making up the difference in one year was too much. So we suggest that after the holidays the sides get back together and begin working on a new contract.

Start with the issues both sides agreed to and lock those up, and then move to the sticking points.

We hope the district will make an offer that includes a raise while the teachers make an offer that doesn’t attempt to fix everything at one time.

Reasonable starting points will ease some of the tension and could go a long way toward reaching an agreement.