EUGENE, Ore. — The Portland and Medford School Districts are on the verge of a strike and some Eugene parents are wondering if this is a window into their future. Those concerns stem in part from the 4J School District’s recent hiring of the same attorney involved in negotiations in Medford.
The district cited a lack of staffing resources to go through the process of negotiating a new three-year contract by itself, but some parents aren’t so sure this is the right way to go since the last time the district hired an attorney, nearly three decades ago, there was a strike. So, the decision to go with this particular firm to go through the negotiation process does not ease their anxiety.
While labor negotiations between the district and the teachers’ group haven’t even started yet, the questioning on their decision to hire an attorney has.
4J Parent Jane Cramer says, “That’s a very bad use of resources. The problem is we have scarce resources. The teachers aren’t the bad guys. Why hire a fancy lawyer at high cost?”
And money is just one part of the concerns. Though both sides say they’re not interested in a “contentious” or lengthy process, teachers wonder if things will go as smoothly as the district hopes.
“We were somewhat alarmed when we learned that the firm and the lawyer that the district is planning to hire is the same lawyer that has been negotiating for the Medford District and tomorrow the Medford teachers are scheduled to go on strike,” says Eugene Education Association President Tad Shannon.
Garrett Heman Robertson is the name of that lawyer and the district says folks should give the fresh eyes and this process a chance.
4J School Board Chair Mary Walston says, “Eugene is not Medford and Medford’s not Eugene. It’s a different set of concerns, number one and number two, we had started thinking about a third party to help us through negotiations before anything happened in Medford and we did pick that firm, but that’s their specialty. You go with the expertise.”
And because the district believes everyone involved wants the same thing, they’re hopeful a resolution can be found.
“We’re all in the same boat and we all want to do what’s best for kids,” says Walston.
The district has not yet determined how much the attorney will cost. It hopes to get the whole process going by early next month.