South Umpqua School District headed to mediation

MYRTLE CREEK, Ore. -- The South Umpqua School District is in the middle of a contract dispute with its classified employees, and the employees have filed a complaint against the district.

The bargaining has been going on since April of this year between the South Umpqua School District and the classified employee's association.

Classified employees are those who work at schools, but aren't teachers. They include office workers, librarians, janitors and more.

One of the main things the two sides cannot agree on is experience steps. For each year of experience, an employee receives a 2% increase in salary for the first 11 years.

The school district is asking for a half step, while the employees union is asking for a full step, as well as a 1.5% cost of living adjustment.

Superintendent Steve Kelley says that it's nothing against the workers, the district simply doesn't have the money. "We just absolutely respect, love our employees," he said. "They do a great job. It's unfortunate that the board is caught between a rock and a hard place, because we don't have the money to give the raises that we'd like to give."

But Ryan Olds, a representative for the employees, says that the district has asked the employees to sacrifice enough. "We're not coming in asking for a lot of money either here. It's not like we're outrageous," he said.

The two sides are now heading to a mediator.