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24 hour negotiating session leads to deal on St. Paul teacher contract

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Instead of a Monday vote on whether to authorize a strike, leaders of St. Paul's teachers union will consider whether to endorse a tentative contract agreement.

The school district and union negotiators made a joint announcement that a 24 hour negotiating session with a mediator produced a two-year contract agreement Friday.

The St. Paul Federation of Teachers' executive board will look over the agreement on Monday and make a recommendation on whether union members should ratify it, the Pioneer Press reports. The newspaper says the school board is tentatively scheduled to vote on the deal March 22.

No details about the terms of the agreement were released Friday.

School safety concerns sparked strike talk

The day after a high school teacher was attacked in December by a student who later pleaded guilty to assault charges, the union filed the paperwork to get a mediator involved in contract talks – noting that it was a first step toward a possible strike.

The assault of the Central High School teacher – who sustained a brain injury – is among several incidents in St. Paul that have fueled safety concerns since the school year began. The Star Tribune notes that fights at two other high schools grew large enough that police described them as riots and a student at a fourth high school was found with a loaded handgun in his locker.

The teachers union made improving school safety (usually referenced with the phrase "school climate") a priority in contract talks. They were pushing for the district to hire more counselors and social workers. They also sought to have School Climate Improvement Teams of parents and teachers come up with solutions to disciplinary problems that are tailored to each school building.

Superintendent Valeria Silva had argued the changes would cost millions of dollars that the district doesn't have.

An official with the Minnesota School Boards Association tells MPR News the St. Paul teachers union is unusual for making school discipline an issue in contract talks.

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