QUINCY -- A second session with a federal mediator Tuesday night did little to bring the Quincy School Board and Quincy Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Personnel closer to a new contract.
"I don't think there was progress tonight," Superintendent Roy Webb said. "I don't think we're further apart. I just think we still have some things to work out."
QF opened the night by asking to meet face-to-face with the board's negotiating team and sharing several testimonials about how the lack of a contract is affecting members' lives.
QF Co-President Jen Drew said some of the biggest impact is on part-time district employees, particularly bus drivers and their insurance costs.
"That's really become a hardship now that those insurance splits have changed. Some of them would actually be paying to work here just to have the insurance," she said. "If we don't get something different, some kind of proposal, they'll actually choose to be uninsured and pay the tax penalty."
QF members also talked about the emotional toll the lack of a contract causes not only on themselves and their families but for district parents and students. "It's impacting the whole community," Drew said.
"The board and I both know that all of our employees want there to be an agreement. They want to not concentrate on contracts and things like that. They want to start only having to worry about what they're doing in the classroom and their family," Webb said. "We want to get to that point."
Drew said the QF presented another counter proposal, but shared no details. The board's team "went and talked for a while, but did not come back with anything for us," Drew said.
Another negotiating session has not been scheduled, but John Weathers with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service will be contacting Webb and QF leadership with possible dates. "When he gets a date from both sides we can all meet, that's when the next session will be," Webb said.
Drew said a meeting had been set for next week but it was pushed back to allow more discussion by the board.
Typical sessions have the mediator meeting separately with the board team and the QF team. On Tuesday, there was some discussion with both sides together as well as some "sidebars" where the leadership of both sides met.
"I think there's an agreement there, a compromise there that can take place," Webb said. "We just need to continue to work to get both sides to that point."
Contract talks headed to mediation in mid-August after QF members rejected a second three-year contract proposal.
QF and the School Board announced a tentative agreement July 11 on a three-year deal. But union membership rejected the proposal, surprising leadership from both sides, citing concerns with a proposed increase in employee health care costs that outpaced a proposed salary increase.
The second proposal made two small changes to contract language, one dealing with the spouse portion of the health insurance and another making the third year an option year, meaning the contract could be reopened if district finances significantly altered.
Both proposals called for a 2.4 percent raise the first year, 1.5 percent the second year and 1.7 percent the third year. The district pays a percentage of monthly insurance costs for employees, with employees paying the rest, and there was a large difference in splits, especially for families.
Compensation and insurance remain stumbling blocks in reaching a new agreement, which must be approved by all subgroups in the union.
Webb said meeting with Weathers has been helpful.
"The mediator's a person that's worked to get agreements with a lot of different organizations," he said. "He brings a different perspective that sometimes helps the situation."
But after what's been called a frustrating session on Tuesday, "I don't know if we're any closer than we were without the mediator," Drew said.