Teachers' grievance not permissable

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A formal complaint against the Steamboat Springs School Board isn't permissible under existing policy, the School Board declared Monday at the conclusion of a three-hour special meeting.

The meeting, held mostly in executive session, was scheduled so the School Board could discuss and respond to a grievance filed last week by the Steamboat Springs Education Association, which accused it of violating, misinterpreting and misapplying negotiated policies.

According to the SSEA complaint, the School Board failed to use the collaborative bargaining process -- as is specifically called for in a negotiated policy -- when it declared the Knowledge and Skills Based Pay system unaffordable last spring. The complaint alleges several other instances of policy violations, mostly pertaining to the now-defunct KSBP system.

"We, the members of SSEA, want policies that are easily attainable, easily understood and clearly followed," read the complaint. "We negotiate policies with the understanding that they are legally binding and cannot be changed without the due processes of the appropriate bargaining groups.

"Clearly, the Board of Education has not followed the stipulations of (negotiated policy No. 2) and is therefore in violation of its own policies."

But according to the School Board, the grievance isn't permissible under a negotiated policy titled "Staff Complaints and Grievances." A provision in that policy states the grievance procedure isn't applicable to negotiations on salary and fringe benefits. The negotiated policy that addresses KSBP includes staff salary schedules.

"Compensation and benefits aren't grieve-able subjects," School Board President Paula Stephenson said. "The questions they raised in the letter they sent are not grieve-able subjects."

Furthermore, the School Board maintains its contention that it hasn't violated any policies.

"It's been the board's position since the SSEA accused us of violating policies that we haven't done anything wrong," Stephenson said. "We're adhering to the policies as we always have."

Stephenson said she will send a formal response to the SSEA regarding its complaint.

"We're obviously disappointed," SSEA President Brad Kindred said. "We strongly disagree that they didn't violate negotiated policy."

Both sides said they plan to send representatives to a Thursday meeting of the Collaborative Bargaining Team.

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