Thursday, September 29, 2005
Steamboat Springs Seven months after first considering legal action against the Steamboat Springs School District, the teachers union filed a lawsuit against the district about alleged policy violations.
Steamboat Springs Education Association officials have said since February that a lawsuit could be filed in response to policy disputes between the two sides. On Sept. 7, the union made good on that threat when the Colorado Education Association's legal committee filed a lawsuit on its behalf. The civil complaint was filed with the 14th Judicial District Court.
Among other issues, the union alleges the School Board violated its own policy when it would not accept a grievance submitted by the association almost a year ago.
The lawsuit seeks a ruling that the association has the right to file a grievance against the district and that the School Board violated that right when it wouldn't accept the grievance.
The issue dates back to spring 2004, when the School Board declared the developing Knowledge and Skills-Based Pay system, which was part of a negotiated policy, unaffordable. The plan sought to pay teachers and staff based primarily on an evaluation system.
Association Pres--ident Brad Kindred said the School Board did not use the collaborative bargaining process, as is required when dealing with negotiated policies, when it made the decision about the pay system. Negotiated policies should be legally binding and should not be arbitrarily changed, Kin--dred said.
The association filed a grievance with the district about its decision to cancel the pay system without using the collaborative bargaining process. The School Board responded by declaring the grievance impermissible under district policy and reiterating its stance that negotiated policies haven't been violated.
Besides court costs and attorneys fees, the lawsuit filed earlier this month doesn't seek money from the district. It does, however, ask the judge to prohibit the district from not accepting future grievances from the association.
The district has not filed a response to the complaint, and School Board members said they first learned about the filing at their meeting Monday.
Superintendent Donna How--ell said the School Board's decision last October that the grievance was not permissible was made with advice from its attorney.
"Although we always like to res--olve issues without having to move to litigation, there are times when there are two differences of opinion," Howell said.
This is an instance in which each side thinks its interpretation of the issue is correct, she said. The difference of opinion makes it necessary for a third party to resolve the matter.
School Board President Paula Stephenson would not comment about the lawsuit Thursday because she had not read the complaint.
-- To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail email@example.com