Deadline not imminent after all for Madera Unified, teachers

The Fresno BeeAugust 16, 2013 

Madera Unified's superintendent said Friday he was wrong to report that a deadline to end contract negotiations with teachers was looming.

Ed Gonzalez, who started his new job Aug. 1, said Monday he'd received a report from a three-member fact-finding committee that's currently assessing an embattled negotiating process between the district and its teachers.

The Bee's request Monday for a copy of the findings went unanswered.

Gonzalez clarified his statements on Friday: He got a brief Monday from his lawyer, not the committee. He said that document outlined possible outcomes the fact-finding committee might recommend -- but was not the official report.

"I wanted to try to be very transparent," he said, "but the reality is, I should have taken a little bit more time."

Submission of the final document would essentially kick off a 10-day window for final negotiations, giving both parties just a few days to find a resolution.

Gonzalez's comments Monday raised eyebrows among teachers' union officials, who said they never received a copy of the committee's report.

The district has been involved in difficult talks with its union.

David Holder, Madera Unified Teachers Association president, has said the district's proposals include a cap on medical payments and mandated teacher training without pay.

The district's most recent offer, he said this week, also includes a provision giving administrators more power to transfer teachers to other schools.

Holder said teachers likely will strike if the district doesn't amend the proposals. He declined to say when a strike would begin.

Gonzalez has said districts have faced tough choices since 2008, as state budget cuts have forced schools to trim expenses.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.

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