Wednesday, January 4, 2006
Salary and contract negotiations for next year's school district staff are scheduled to begin tonight.
The bargaining team, a group of 15 people representing a cross-section of the Steamboat Springs School District, will meet for five hours tonight and Friday night -- and four more times in the next five weeks. The goal is to reach an agreement about next year's pay and contract policies for more than 150 district teachers, support staff and employees.
Team member Tom Miller-Freutel, president of the Steam--boat Springs School Board, said teachers needed better salaries.
"Teachers are not going to be able to live in Steamboat Springs very long on the salaries we are paying them right now," he said, citing a need to retain good teachers and replace retiring teachers. "We will have people in pretty low-paying positions trying to afford to live in this community," he said. "The average teacher certainly isn't going to be able to buy an entry-level house in Steamboat Springs."
Negotiations this year mark a transition from the traditional and collaborative bargaining processes previously used by the district to the interest-based bargaining method.
"I think the difference is in perspective," said Jerry Buelter, assistant principal at Steamboat Springs Middle School and a member of the bargaining team.
Buelter said that during the traditional bargaining used by the district in the 1980s, a small number of teachers and School Board members "would go head to head." The collaborative model used for the past several years, Buelter said, got more people involved in the negotiations but also created more debate.
Ideally, he said, interest-based bargaining will focus on identifying what team members agree on regarding salary and policies, then on what steps are needed to achieve those results.
"It kind of keeps us focused on the end result," he said.
Buelter has been assistant principal at the middle school for five years. Before that, he taught social studies at Steamboat Springs High School for about 20 years, while coaching football and girls basketball.
The experience helps him see the needs of teachers and school staff, as well as the principals he represents, he said.
"One of the big issues we need to look at this year is extra-duty pay," Buelter said, also naming staff policies such as personal leave and annual leave days as important issues.
Larry Nesbit, a former teacher and school district superintendent, will facilitate the bargaining process.
"I think that's going to make a huge difference," Buelter said.
The bargaining team in----cludes Donna Howell, superintendent of the school district; Dale Mellor, district director of operations and finance; Steve Moos, business teacher at the high school; Wendy Hall, teacher and volleyball coach at the middle school; Mike Johnson, fifth-grade teacher at Strawberry Park Elementary; and Soda Creek teachers Barb Keenan and Sharon Clementson, who teach first-grade and kindergarten, respectively.
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