Both sides seemed optimistic about reaching a resolution before the start of mediation next week.
However, it appears contract negotiations between a teachers union and the Leavenworth school district will go to mediation as scheduled.
The Leavenworth National Education Association and the Leavenworth School Board have not reached a negotiated contract agreement for the current school year.
An impasse officially has been declared in the negotiations, and mediation is scheduled to begin Jan. 29.
The major point of contention in the negotiations concerns what is referred to as a "step," or vertical movement, on a pay grid known as the teachers' salary schedule. The Leavenworth NEA has argued for such a "step," which would result in a pay increase for teachers.
Ginger Riddle, a co-president of the LNEA and member of the union's negotiating team, said teachers expect to be rewarded for their experience by moving on the salary schedule.
"We believe that the district can give that and should," she said.
Kevin Gullett, chief financial officer for the school district, said the school system has enough money to pay for the salary increase for its regular education teachers. But, there is not enough money for teachers in the Leavenworth County Special Education Cooperative.
The Leavenworth school system serves as host district for the Special Education Cooperative. All of the cooperative's teachers are employees of the Leavenworth district.
All six of the school districts that are members of the cooperative provide financial support to the organization.
Gullett said salary increases for special education teachers would be paid for from the cooperative's budget, which doesn't have enough money to pay for raises if teachers move a "step" on the salary schedule.
Riddle said the LNEA believes the resources are available for paying for the "step" increase.
Gullett said the said the district had offered a one-time payment of $500 to returning teachers as well as a $75 monthly increase in the district's contribution for health insurance for employees on a single-person plan. The district also offered to give teachers with advanced degrees lateral movement on the salary schedule, but not the vertical "step" requested by the LNEA.
Riddle said the $500 payment would be a one-time payment. The pay increase from a "step" on the salary schedule would accumulate year after year.
"Over the career of the teacher, that is going to add up to tens of thousands of dollars," she said.
Even though it was not made as an official offer, the LNEA would have accepted the pay increase from a "step" for only the second half of the current school year, Riddle said.
During the upcoming mediation, a mediator will talk with sides and try to find a resolution.
Page 2 of 2 - "His recommendation is not binding on either party," Riddle said.
If a resolution is not reached through mediation, the negotiations will advance to a fact finding process.
In the meantime, teachers are operating under the conditions of their 2012-13 contracts.
Riddle said the LNEA has to file a letter by Feb. 1 stating the items its members want to negotiate for the next school year.
She said it's frustrating because teachers don't have a 2013-14 contract to work from.