Under threat of teachers' strike, South Burlington cancels school beginning Tuesday

Associated Press

Schools in South Burlington were ordered closed as of Tuesday due to an impending strike by district teachers.

Both Eric Stone, chief negotiator with the South Burlington Educators' Association, and school district officials said they did not expect to resolve their differences before a Tuesday morning strike deadline that had been approved by teachers.

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The union, an affiliate of the Vermont National Education Association, has been without a contract since the previous labor agreement expired July 1. It said last week that the district's more than 250 teachers would strike if a deal were not reached before Tuesday.

"We've now made two compromise offers in an effort to get the school board back to the table and their only response is to delay," Stone said. "We meant it last week when we said we would go on strike if an agreement isn't reached."

School Board Chairwoman Elizabeth Fitzgerald has maintained that the board could not meet before Tuesday without violating Vermont open-meeting rules, an assertion disputed by the union.

Fitzgerald did not immediately return a message left at her home phone number on Monday.

School Superintendent David Young had sent district parents and guardians a letter on Friday warning that a strike was likely and would cause classes, sporting and other school-related events to be canceled as of Tuesday.

On Monday, the district posted a notice on its website saying the school cancellation would go forward on Tuesday.

"We will continue to update the district website with any change and would utilize our alert messaging system to inform you when school would resume," the notice said.

Stone said a neutral factfinder had determined that teachers should be given 3 percent raises in each of the next two years and that they continue to pay 16 percent of their monthly health insurance premiums, with the district paying the rest.

He said the district was pushing for smaller pay increases and wanted teachers to begin paying 18 percent of their health premiums.