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Amid Strike, Dedham School Committee Meets With Teachers Union

Negotiations between the teachers union and the Dedham School Committee have been ongoing for two years

The Dedham School Committe said it would meet with striking teachers in the middle of Massachusetts' first teachers strike in more than a decade.

The Dedham School Committee's negotiation subcommittee intends to get a deal done, according to Stephen Bilafer, a member of the committee.

"We are committed to stay at the table until we get a deal," Bilafer said in a statement. "We want to get our kids back in school."

The school committee says both sides are making progress on a new tentative agreement that is a four-year deal.

Both sides met for 11 hours on Saturday and are meeting again Sunday at noon.

The announcement of the new round of talks came as striking teachers rallied in Dedham, chanting, "What do we want? A fair contract! When do we want it? Now!"

Calling for a fair contract, the teachers went on strike Friday. They have been at loggerheads with officials on issues including salary, health care and policies on sexual harassment and student cell phone use. 

Teachers' picketing on Friday, with classes canceled, marked the state's first strike of public school teachers in 12 years, something that 's prohibited by law in Massachusetts, since teachers are public employees.

"This was our last resort... we were left with no options," said Tim Dwyer, the president of the union Friday. 

Union bargaining chair Rachel Dudley added: "We spend a lot time teaching our students to stand up for themselves and what’s right and our members decided yesterday it’s time to stand up for what we believe in."

The Dedham School Committee said it has petitioned with the state’s Department of Labor Relations so it can intervene to prevent the strike. However, the teachers union said it's willing to accept the fines and other punishment.

The Dedham School Committee has said it was "saddened that the Dedham Education Association would consider this drastic action at this time."

Negotiations between the teachers union and school committee had been ongoing for two years before the strike.

The strike came a day after the union voted 248-2 in favor of the action, prompting the school district to cancel classes for the day.

The last teacher strike in the Bay State was in 2007 in Quincy, according to the teachers association. 

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