Butte public schools are shuttered Wednesday after district officials and administrators failed to agree on a contract for the 2011-2012 school year.
Butte School District 1 and Teamsters' Union 2, which represented the 15 principals, assistant principals and directors at a last-chance meeting Tuesday evening, could not strike a deal which would have allowed schools to continue to operate.
The disagreement is a 1 percent difference in the size of a salary increase for the administrators.
The school district offered a 2 percent raise on administrators' base salary in addition to their guaranteed raises for experience. That would amount to at least a 4.4 percent annual pay increase for all the administrators.
The union countered last Friday with a proposal to accept a 1 percent raise for this year, while maintaining their request for the 4 percent experience factor increase for the administrators.
That divide could not be bridged Tuesday and a strike was called.
The union is requesting the same increase Superintendent Linda Reksten, Business Manager J.R. Richardson and Human Resources Director Therese McClafferty are expected to receive this year.
"It's a question of parity," said Bill Rowe, Teamsters' Union representative.
Rowe last week faxed a copy to The Standard showing that Reksten, Richardson and McClafferty had all received 6 percent raises for the year on their salaries, which included the 4 percent experience factor. Reksten last year earned $108,120, Richardson's salary was $105,856 and McClafferty was paid $64,045.
But the three non-union administrators have not agreed to contracts for the 2011-2012 school year, according to the district. All three are working under a temporary contract and are still receiving the same pay as last year.
Rowe said the three would get those increases once the administrators' contact is agreed upon.
The Butte School District did not return calls regarding the strike, but did release a statement.
"The district trustees are disappointed that the union made this choice," it read. "But, given the underfunding dilemma faced by the district, the school board strongly believes the offer made to the administrators is fair and reasonable and is also responsible to our community and its taxpayers, now and in the future."
The strike means there is no school Wednesday at Emerson, Hillcrest, Kennedy, Margaret Leary, West and Whittier elementaries as well as East Middle School, Butte High School and the Webster Complex. Those schools are closed until further notice.
Rural schools in Silver Bow County, including Ramsay, remain in operation, as does Butte Central Catholic schools.
All public school-sanctioned sports, activities and events are canceled for the length of the strike.
As of Tuesday evening, no meetings are scheduled between the two sides and neither said it had plans to bring a counter offer to the table.
"We gave our last and final (offer) and they gave their last and final (offer)," said Rowe. "Nothing else is scheduled at the present."
At least that is one thing they can agree on.
"The trustees remain hopeful that the administration will examine all aspects of the situation and accept the last, best and final offer made by the district to engage in mediation," said the district's statement.
- Reporter Tim Trainor may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 496-5519.