You & I Create Respect – With or Without a Contract

negotiationsNegotiations this year had a new wrinkle: The passing of Prop 104 (70% of voters said yes). This new law means all discussions relating to district-union negotiations had to be conducted in public. It also means that boards can no longer go into executive session to discuss contract issues or strategy, and that actual negotiations must allow public observation. One aspect the new law overlooks is that the association/unions are able to discuss contract issues and strategy behind closed doors, which seems to put school boards at a disadvantage.

It seems that there is fear amongst teaching professionals that without an MOU they would be at the mercy of principals, central administration, and the Board of Education. It is important to note that much of what the MOU (memorandum of understanding) covers is also found in board policy (section G) and the majority of school districts in Colorado do not have collective bargaining agreements.

Keep in mind that while the Board did not approve the new collective bargaining agreement, the TEA as a professional organization is still available for teachers to join and receive member benefits. The only difference now is that the TEA will no longer negotiate on behalf of any TSD staff and will become a true association with no bargaining rights as opposed to a full-blown union with a contract.

The Board made very clear at the May 20th meeting and the June budget meetings that steps/columns would be honored and that the district would pick up the increased costs for PERA and insurance, and so teachers do have economic stability. Dr. Scheer has made very clear at board meetings that he and his staff will be working diligently to ensure a smooth transition, which includes preparing individual teacher contracts for the new school year.

The TEA has decided to file for an injunction, which means they are asking the courts to rule that the MOU will stay in place while non-binding arbitration occurs. What I don’t understand is why does TEA President Andy Crisman believe keeping the MOU structure will ensure students are not affected by negotiations.

The only way students would be affected is if the teachers decided to not show up for the start of the new school year, and I do not believe teachers would do this to the students they care deeply about.

Right now we all need to step back, breathe deep, and enjoy the summer while the legal and contractual issues are worked out, and trust that Dr. Scheer and his team will ensure a smooth transition for both teachers and students.


Negotiation Details

At the April 1st meeting, the Board established priorities (critical questions) for negotiations at the April 3rd negotiation meeting. The questions were:

  • Establish a Pay for Performance Program (Note: negotiations last year established the Stipend Bonus as a pilot pay for performance program) Status: Not in proposed MOU
  • TEA access to Communications Printing, Emails, Posting Notices. Status: Partially Done; Did add $1000 annual fee for TEA to have unlimited access to district buildings and statement of “make every effort” not to use district email for TEA business
  • Review of MOU to purposefully move certain topics to an employee handbook Move articles that were basic employee policies that typically applied to all classes of employees to a handbook. Status: The first draft did move some items, but kept them subject to negotiations. The final draft removed being subject to negotiations, but still did not move all items requested to an employee handbook.
  • PERA Contribution increase shared by employees. Status: Not included in proposed MOU
  • District will pay Increased cost of employee insurance premium. Status: Done
  • Steps/Columns movement. Status: Done
  • Staffing Issues regarding Special Ed and Admin support Can’t find discussion on this topic
  • Planning Time/School Calendar. Status:  Board focus was on reducing impact of time off for professional development time – Done.  Increasing student contact days –  not done.

At the April 15th meeting Bryce Carlson made a motion to have Dr. Scheer and Board counsel prepare a draft MOU to be reviewed and agreed to by negotiations team and the Board. The specific items Carlson asked for in the draft are:

  • Removes the current Performance Management Incentives plan and replaces it with a pay for performance pilot program. Status:  Not Done
  • Revised Articles 5-1, 5-3, 5-5, and 9-4 and any others necessary to remove TEA access and privileges that are not available to any other organization in the community. Status: Not Done
  • Moves issues that, in the opinion of board legal counsel and the district human resources department, are better situated in a handbook or board policy to the appropriate location. These issues should at least include: Article 6 (Collaborative Decision Making), parts of Article 19 (Teacher Evaluation), Article 20 (Reduction in Force), Article 9 (Leave), Article 10 (Insurance Benefits), Article 11 (Flexible Spending Accounts), Article 12 (Payroll Arrangements for Teachers), Article 14 (Extra Duty Salaries), Article 15 (Department Chairpersons), Article 21 (Procedures on Class Size). Status: Partially complete
  • Addresses options regarding the current Severance Transition Leave Plan, which obligates us to more than $11 million in payout to retiring teachers. Status: Technically addressed with a legal opinion from Caplan & Ernst.
  • Teacher leave time for union activities. Status: Not Done
  • 4+4 Meetings were changed to 2+2 and were closed to the public. This went against the Board’s wishes for transparency and was not changed.

The negotiations meetings were held April 3, 21, 27th and May 12th and Dr. Siebers presented updates to the board on March 18th, April 15th, April 22nd and May 6th

There were multiple opportunities for the above issues to be discussed at negotiation meetings and worked out for the final MOU proposal, but didn’t seem like there was a real desire to take serious the Board’s critical questions.

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