Board of Ed apologizes

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— The Steamboat Springs RE-2 Board of Education has apologized to school staff for limiting a discussion of a master agreement, and scheduled several times to meet with them to discuss it further.

In a letter dated April 13 that went to all school district employees, the board apologized for hampering the communication process and to those who researched the master agreement.

"We made a mistake," board President Dan Birch said Monday. "Just like we teach our kids, when you screw up, you have to make amends."

The board is scheduled to listen to a presentation on the master contract from 4 to 6 p.m. on May 3. Staff, board members and administration are scheduled take part in facilitated discussion sessions on May 4 and 5.

"I'm appreciative of the apology from the board, it was a gracious gesture. It was due," Steamboat Springs Education Association President Ann Keating said.

Keating is concerned that the board is not acknowledging the SSEA specifically, but rather as staff. She said the SSEA had requested a direct bilateral facilitated meeting with the board, which is not mentioned. The SSEA set up a master agreement task force to research the document.

"There seems to be a purposeful ignoring of the Steamboat Springs Education Association. We are 118 members. That's a lot of members. We have 148 certified staff and 118 are SSEA," she said.

Only three support-staff members are members of SSEA, she said.

Birch said that following last Monday's heated School Board meeting, attended by 85 staff, parents and community members, there was some discussion about what the next step would be, and board members collaborated on the letter.

At that meeting, the board amended a resolution to kill the discussion about a master agreement, and voted to talk further about communication issues, which they said may include a master agreement.

A master agreement is a binding contract between an education association and the board, although other groups may negotiate their own agreement, containing terms of employment, benefits and salaries. It is negotiated by those two groups and can be amended if both parties agree.

In last fall's collaborative bargaining agreement, the board agreed to explore a master agreement. When members of the SSEA master agreement task force presented information at a March 6 study session, the board said it was not interested, angering many staff members, who said the board was not following through with the agreement.

Birch said the board hopes to have a fresh start and said that hearing the issues, although tense, may help both sides in the long run. Birch has said the thinks there is an underlying issue in the master agreement discussion, but realizes that the disagreement over it was hampering discussing those issues.

"It would have been a lot easier to have done it in March, but I don't regret what transpired. We needed to have the discussion and the issues needed to be expressed. It's a good opportunity," he said. "If it wouldn't have happened, we wouldn't have been dealing with the issues."

Superintendent Cyndy Simms, who was silent during most of Monday's discussion, will participate in the talks with the SSEA. She said she was silent for a reason on Monday.

"I thought it was important for both parties to listen to each other," she said.

Facilitator Bob Chadwick, who helped with the collaborative bargaining agreement, will be at the May 4 and 5 sessions.


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

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