Teachers union, school board seem at impasse

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— The Steamboat Springs Education Association, a group that represents local teachers, still wants to pursue the idea of a master agreement with the RE-2 School District, despite the board's rejection of the idea, SSEA officials said.

The SSEA had a general membership meeting last week that about 60 members attended. The consensus was that they wanted to have more discussion with the School Board, SSEA President Ann Keating said.

"We're just waiting to hear if the board will reopen the door," she said.

The SSEA has not heard from the board since a March 6 Board of Education study session, except in a letter the day after the meeting telling it that the board would not be exploring a master agreement with them, she said.

While the board is not interested in looking at master agreement, board President Dan Birch said Friday that it definitely wants to continue talking.

"I think this is a symptom of other problems and other issues. Rather than focusing on the symptom, we need to focus on the issues," he said. "A lot of this is perception, but you have to deal with perceptions. We would be remiss if we didn't sit down and talk about these issues."

Birch said that he suspected if those issues went away, the desire for a master agreement might dissipate.

Keating said that if the board is still not willing to explore a master agreement, which the SSEA said was part of the 1999 Collaborative Bargaining Agreement, the membership will be polled again on what the next step is, although members are ready to take some sort of action.

A master agreement is a binding legal contract negotiated with between the SSEA and the School Board that would give the teachers union more of a say in the district's decision-making process.

Negotiations are now done through the Collaborative Bargaining Team with Superintendent Cyndy Simms representing the board. The board said that it does not bargain with unions, however.

SSEA members are wary of the amount of power Simms holds in the negotiating process, Keating said.

"There's no system of checks and balances," she said.

Birch said that Policy Governance, which is a set of policies for the board and the superintendent, was created so that Simms is the contact person and the board members do not micromanage. That isn't set in stone, though, he said.

"It doesn't say that all communication has to take place through the superintendent or CEO," he said.

In a press release from the SSEA following last week's meeting, it said that is concerned that the board has the power to change negotiated policies without input from the staff. With a master agreement, any changes that are made to an agreement are mutually decided by both parties.

The board has been calling school groups like the District Accountability Committee, members of the school audit teams, members of the Growth and Technology commissions and SSEA members to find out if they are meeting their needs, board member Millie Beall said.

"We're just touching base with our community to find out if we're best representing them and if what we are doing it what they want," Beall said.


- To reach Jennifer Bartlett call 871-4204 or e-mail jbartlett@amigo.net

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