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Oak Harbor teacher contract vote expected Friday

Oak Harbor teachers are gearing up to make a contract decision late this week, and a teachers union spokesperson says the association remains hopeful that it can come to a contract agreement with the district.

Peter Szalai, co-president of Oak Harbor Education Association, said late Monday night that another bargaining session between the two sides is set for Thursday evening, and teachers will take a vote on the district’s latest offer from that meeting Friday afternoon.

“We feel the district can improve on its offer,” Szalai said of the proposed contract the district presented late last week.

At that time the union declined the agreement, with Szalai saying that the two sides remained about $100,000 apart over a two-year contract.

The lead negotiator for the district, Barbara James, was unable to agree to any further concessions, Szalai said, without the consent of the district superintendent or the school board president, neither of whom was available at the time.

While teachers will start school tomorrow without a contract, Szalai said the association will have to face tough decisions if the district does not agree to its requests. OHEA members think it is in everyone’s best interest not to strike, Szalai said, but it is one option the group must consider.

The teachers’ previous contract expired August 31 and the union and the district yet to come to an agreement over issues involving pay and benefits.

Rick Schulte, school superintendent, and Kathy Jones, school board president, were unavailable for comment prior to press time.

You can reach News-Times reporter Christine Smith at csmith@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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