Leaders of the Fresno Teachers Association union say they're baffled by statements made by Fresno Unified Superintendent Michael Hanson that the two parties -- which have been embroiled for months in a standoff over teacher contracts -- have settled on a third-party mediator.
Hanson said during a news conference Monday that the two sides have agreed to a mediator, who will be one of three members of a mediation fact-finding committee.
The comments drew the ire of the union, which in a statement Tuesday called the message a "blatant misrepresentation."
"The behavior of the Fresno district is some of the worst I've seen in 35 years in the labor organizing business," Rhonnie Tinsley, FTA executive director, said in the statement. "The free hand that the current School Board has given to their superintendent is out of control."
Hanson referred questions about the union's comments to his staff Tuesday.
"Nothing is official at this point," Fresno Unified spokeswoman Micheline Golden said. "As the superintendent said yesterday, we hope to receive official notice on the certified parties early next week and that's when we'll know for certain who the third person in the fact-finding panel is."
Tinsley said in a later interview that the union has not had any contact with district officials since Friday, when negotiations through an initial state mediator stalled.
"We have no idea what (Hanson's) talking about," she said. "We haven't even talked about who is doing," mediation these days.
The confusion comes as both sides are expected to move into a new mediation process, pending approval from a state employee relations board. The teachers and district have bickered for months over the contract, which determines teacher pay, benefits and daily duties.
They've found middle ground on a few points -- among them teacher evaluations and early childhood education -- but the biggest sticking point, teacher salaries, is unresolved.
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