ROARING SPRING - Spring Cove School District teachers' union members voted against a proposed three-year contract Monday, forcing representatives back to negotiations in a move that both union negotiators and school board members called a surprise.
The district's proposal, which reportedly included a one-year pay freeze and a higher health insurance deductible, was the first to be rejected in 33 years, Chief Negotiator John Horton said.
"The consensus of the members was that it was all concessions," Horton said. "We're going to go back to the table and keep trying."
Horton said the 103-member union's rejection came as a surprise to the negotiators. Union head John Fitzpatrick and school board President J. Samuel Dean said last week that they expected an agreement Monday, with only language details to be hammered out.
Instead, an expected school board vote was canceled after union representatives notified them of the rejection, Dean said.
The sticking point, some teachers said, was the high-deductible health care provision.
Teachers and district representatives had been in discussions since January; the prior contract officially expired in June, with its provisions set to continue until a new agreement is made.
"I'm confident that we'll be communicating within the week," Dean said before a school board meeting Monday evening.
A prior wage freeze proposal, offered last spring by union officers amid state budget-cut concerns, led to a weeks-long dispute before administrators furloughed five teachers.
Horton said he'd like to see the bargaining parties' differences resolved more amicably.
"I hope," he said. "We're going to find out."
Mirror Staff Writer Ryan Brown is at 946-7457.