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February 24, 2005

Law professor Michael Moffitt helps Corvallis School District avoid teachers strike

After thirteen months of tense negotiations and several all-day mediation
sessions with UO law professor Michael Moffitt , Corvallis, Ore.
teachers reached a tentative bargaining agreement with the school board this week.
In an announcement sent out late in the evening of February 21, the Corvallis Education Association (CEA) and Corvallis School District bargaining teams said they were pleased and optimistic.
On Thursday, March 3, the contract was approved unanimously at a special meeting of the school board

These were not easy issues. They were complicated by the dismal funding forecast for Oregon public education.” Moffitt said, But both parties demonstrated persistence and wisdom in searching for a solution all sides could accept. I’m optimistic.

Moffitt was asked to step in last December, when negotiations had stalled and a teachers strike loomed. In a joint letter to parents, the teachers and the board wrote that they had selected Moffitt because of his impressive background in dispute resolution to help develop a process an informal version of traditional fact finding. They also asked him to broker communications between the two sides, and help them keep focused and maintain a collaborative atmosphere.

It worked.

Last month, Moffitt met with representatives of each bargaining team to review the financial data and develop a list of the unresolved economic issues, which included salary, insurance, and early retirement benefits. Another sub-group also met independently to work on unresolved language issues.

Both sides presented written briefings to Moffitt on each of the economic issues. The two teams discussed these issues with Moffitt on February 5. On February 21, Moffitt facilitated the final full-day bargaining session which resulted in a tentative agreement.

Moffitt, who is associate director of the law school’s Appropriate Dispute Resolution Program, is no stranger to conflict resolution. Before joining the UO faculty in 2001, he served as clinical supervisor for the mediation program at Harvard Law School, taught negotiation at both Harvard and Ohio State University law schools and spent several years with Conflict Management Group in Cambridge, Mass. His clients have ranged from senior judges and tribal leaders to unionized prison guards and national political leaders.

Moffitt teaches negotiation, mediation, dispute resolution and civil procedure. Last year, he won three top teaching awards from the university, law students, and the law school faculty.

READ the CORVALLIS GAZETTE-TIMES story

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