CONCORD -- The Mt. Diablo school district and teachers union are preparing for tough negotiations this fall that could shorten the school year for students and trim teachers' pay.

"It's certainly my hope and the hope of the board that we can continue to work in a collaborative fashion to try to meet the financial challenges that we are facing as a district and that the state is facing," Board President Gary Eberhart said during a meeting Tuesday. "This is an unfortunate position to be in, but it's unfortunately where we are right now financially."

The district discussed a contract proposal that calls for seven furlough days -- including five school days and two teacher work days -- along with benefits cuts and pay freezes. The teachers' union expects to submit its contract proposal in a few weeks, union president Mike Langley said.

He said the union reached a special agreement with the district in just 10 days to help retain $9 million in School Improvement Grant funding by lengthening the school day at three sites. Teachers and other union members want what's best for the children, he said.

"Our members want solutions," he said, "not a slugfest."

Trustees also appointed nine administrators and received an update on plans for the first day of classes at district schools, which will be Tuesday. They heard a report about solar projects under construction and reminded the public to drive carefully, watching out for increased pedestrian, bike and vehicle traffic.

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Information about the Mt. Diablo school board meeting is available by calling 925-682-8000, ext. 4000 or by going to http://esbpublic.mdusd.k12.ca.us. Click on Aug. 22. For details, read the On Assignment blog at IBAbuzz.com/onassignment.