Parent rips D-46 in contract talks

PRAIRIE GROVE – A parent fed up with the ongoing contract negotiations at Prairie Grove School District 46 questioned whether the school board was engaging in “good faith bargaining” at the board meeting Tuesday night.

Karen Cebuhar, who has two children, said she believes the community “is strong, family-oriented, education-positive, and that the tactics and techniques being used by some board members are negatively impacting both our community’s morale and our teachers’ ability to do their jobs.”

Contract negotiations began Jan. 31, 2011. Teachers worked under the contract that expired in August 2011 until July 27, when the district imposed its “last best and final offer” on teachers.

The school board Friday said through its website that contract negotiations would resume Thursday. A federal mediator involved in talks was out of the country, it said.

The Prairie Grove Teachers’ Association said it was willing to use a substitute federal mediator and since Sept. 28 proposed eight meeting dates between Oct. 1 and today. “... But the board team will not meet until Oct. 11th,” the association said in an email.

The union and district reportedly are divided over issues of salary, extra-duty stipends, health insurance and the district ’s decision to eliminate post-retirement payments, including insurance reimbursements.

At Tuesday’s meeting in the junior high school library at 3225 Route 176 in Prairie Grove, the board issued a brief statement: “While we can’t divulge details of the negotiations, we believe progress has been made.”

Earlier in the summer, the union filed a required 10-day “intent-to-strike” notice with the district, which serves about 1,000 students in kindergarten through eighth grade. But no strike date has been set and the union leadership has said it “continues to do everything possible to avoid a strike.”