Halstead-Bentley board of education issue unilateral contract that is rejected by several teachers in USD 440.

Standing in the Kansas Learning Center for Health, Ron Chronister was charged with making a speech he really didn’t want to make.

Chronister, a negotiator for the Halstead teacher’s association, was part of a press conference June 21 which led to “a large number” of teachers rejecting a unilateral contract issued by the Halstead-Bentley board of education.

“This unilateral contract, in addition to containing an early retirement policy that is virtually unreachable and unusable by the teachers of USD 440, contains other oppressive changes in language that had never, in the 16 months of negotiations, been addressed,” Chronister said.

It’s the latest move in a more than year-long negotiation process that first stalled over salary — then over the district’s early retirement policy.

Negotiations began Feb. 1, 2007, then stalled May 23, 2007.

During a session with a federal mediator, the two sides came to terms over the size of a proposed salary increase, but talks stalled over board requested changes to the early retirement policy.

The two sides presented their cases to a state fact finder in April. A report was issued by the fact finder in May.

The board chose to not use the fact-finder’s recommendation, which would have made no changes to the early retirement policy in the contract for one year.

The board did choose, however, to issue a unilateral contract on June 13.

Negotiations for the 2008-09 contract have been requested by the teachers’ association, but have not yet begun.

“We’ve requested to meet with the board several times, but they have been unavailable,” Chronister said.