Butte school administrators, locked in a contract dispute with the school district, have let it be known that if they can't negotiate a deal by Tuesday they will go on strike.

Yes the timing is poor,

having just completed the first week of school and all, but you can't pin that problem on either side. Difficult negotiations between the district and the teachers took most of the summer to complete and they were each fully focused on resolving that dispute before the bell rang for the first day of class.

However, that summer's worth of work put both sides behind the eight ball when

it came to agreeing upon new contract

with 15 school administrators that are members of the Teamster's Union. These administrators hold such positions as

principal, assistant principal and

department director.

But what really put the negotiations

even farther behind schedule was

administration entering with demands

that are far out of line.

They asked for a 6 percent base pay raise in addition to their guaranteed raises, as well as increases in longevity bonuses, larger health insurance

contributions and higher raises for experience. Granted, in the world of contract negotiations, you start high and work your way down in the appearance of showing movement. But unrealistic starting points just make

everyone blanche.

Those would be hefty demands even in flush times. And these are not flush times - not for the country or the school district.

The district countered with a more

moderate proposal to grant an additional

2 percent pay raise to the administrators, which would result in salary increases of

at least 4.4 percent across the board once

previously agreed upon standards are

factored in.

That seems more than fair to us.

Not many folks in the private sector are seeing raises these days, but a 4.4 percent bump for those at the top that are trying

to lead a turnaround in our school system seems apropos.

Yet, as of this holiday weekend, there is no agreement.

Administrators are prepared to go on strike Tuesday at 6 p.m., which would

cancel school Wednesday and until the

two sides come to an agreement.

That's not right.

We the taxpayers pay to operate these schools. Our children depend on them. Our communities depend on them.

We realize this is a union-friendly town and that everyone has a right to negotiate a fair salary.

But we believe school administrators are already making fair wages that fit their experience levels and the performance of the school district and its students.

And, due to the contract the union has already negotiated, they get an automatic raise each year. Administrators should be happy they are members of a organization that was able to negotiate that for them.

They should remain on the job, doing their best work for a fair wage, and not close shop at the expense of Butte students.

- The Montana Standard Editorial Board


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