The Middle Man

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Currently, the teachers and support staff unions, district administration and a federal mediator still do not have an agreement.

Friday morning support staff met with a federal mediator. That session turned out to be unsuccessful as no movement was made from either side. Friday afternoon it was the teachers’ turn to bargain.

This is the third time teachers and support staff unions, district administration and a federal mediator have spent the day negotiating. The first day of school in the Harlem school district is August 23.

Harlem isn't the first district to have to call in a federal mediator. You may remember last November in the Hononegah school district when the school board and teachers couldn't reach an agreement.

When federal mediator Mike Salmon closes one door he only opens another with the hope that the offer he presents can seal the deal. Friday is day three that the Harlem school district is negotiating with a federal mediator.

Federal mediator Mike Salmon says, "Where I am most helpful is posing hypothetical situations to both sides. First we listen and then hopefully we bring in new eyes."

Wages and health insurance are the main issues for teachers, support staff, and the Harlem school district. Both sides have already started to feel the pressure. This week, students and parents protested to encourage communication so school can start on time. Public sector negotiations usually attract more outside interest.

"There's an entire community watching. Tax bills are affected and the quality of education depends on what happens," says Mike.

But Mike can't force all parties in the Harlem negotiations to agree. His job qualifications require him to be impartial and keep discussions behind closed doors confidential.

It is possible that mike's services will be needed past the first day of school on August 23, but federal mediations can continue with the kids in the classroom.