Butte public schools are shuttered Wednesday after district officials and administrators failed to agree on a contract for the 2011-2012 school year.
Butte School District #1 and Teamster's Union #2, which represented the 15 principals, assistant principals and directors at a last-chance meeting Tuesday evening, could not strike a deal which would have allowed schools to continue to operate.
The only disagreement was a 1 percent difference in the size of a salary increase for the administrators. The school district offered a 3 percent bump in salary and experience factor while the union countered with 4 percent.
That divide could not be bridged Tuesday and a strike was called.
The 4 percent number the union requested was the same increase Superintendent Linda Reksten, Business Manager J.R. Richardson and Human Resources Director Therese McClafferty received this year.
"It's a question of parity," said Bill Rowe, Teamster's representative.
The Butte School District did not return calls regarding the strike, but did release a statement.
"The district trustees are disappointed that the union made this choice," it read. "But, given the underfunding dilemma faced by the district, the school board strongly believes the offer made to the administrators is fair and reasonable and is also responsible to our community and its taxpayers, now and in the future."
The strike means there is no school Wednesday at Emerson, Hillcrest, Kennedy, Margaret Leary, West and Whittier elementaries as well as East Middle School, Butte High School and the Webster Complex. Those schools are closed until further notice.
Rural schools in Silver Bow County remain in operation, as does Butte Central.
All school-sanctioned sports, activities and events are canceled for the length of the strike.
As of Tuesday evening, no meetings are scheduled between the two sides and neither said it had plans to bring a counter offer to the table.
"We gave our last and final (offer) and they gave their last and final (offer)," said Rowe. "Nothing else is scheduled at the present."
At least that is one thing they can agree on.
"The trustees remain hopeful that the administration will examine all aspects of the situation and accept the last, best and final offer made by the district to engage in mediation," said the district's statement.
- Reporter Tim Trainor may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com