PORTLAND – Hundreds of people gathered at the Portland school board meeting Monday night, with teachers and their supporters pressuring the district for a new contract.
During the meeting, the board approved a budget change made possible from a $16 million surplus and $5 million in unexpected property tax revenues.
The board added 30 teaching positions and half-time classified jobs in 68 schools. Money was also added to various athletic, academic and counseling programs.
What frustrated the union was that the board also placed $14 million into a reserve fund that now totals $34 million. The union contends that some of that money should be used for a contract settlement.
As for the negotiations, they remain stalled. Another bargaining session with a mediator is scheduled for Friday.
"We're still really hopeful," said Portland Public Schools spokeswoman Christine Miles.
"I think it is important we are having conversations," said Gwen Sullivan, president of the Portland Association of Teachers. "You can't get to a negotiated settlement unless you are talking."
District officials said that teacher pay, the length of the school year and the hiring process are the remaining sticking points.
"I really wish it would end," said union supporter Meredith Reese. "A lot of my friends are teachers and they are stressed out."
The last time teachers rallied in front of the board, the crowd got rowdy.