The Steamboat Springs School District's collaborative bargaining team may be progressing slowly, but its members are happy.
Team members visited district schools Wednesday to give an update on the process that will determine next year's employment policies, including salaries and benefits for district teachers and staff. Soda Creek kindergarten teacher Sharon Clementson said the most significant development does not involve results in the bargaining process but rather the mood of the team.
"As a group, we feel we have made a lot of progress. We are feeling more and more comfortable with each other; we trust each other and feel we can put issues on the table in an open and accepting platform. We feel (the collaborative bargaining team) is not what it had become in the past few years," said a statement prepared by Clementson and other team members that was distributed to district staff members.
The 15-member team is using a new discussion method this year, called "interest-based bargaining," which middle school vice-principal Jerry Buelter said has been instrumental in providing a more "pleasant" bargaining process.
"Last year, there was a lot of confrontation -- way too much," Buelter said to a group of teachers and staff at Steamboat Springs High School. "It's a whole new atmosphere."
The interest-based method allows each bargaining participant to state particular interests and then promotes discussion about goals, obstacles and solutions.
The statement said the team has used the interest-based method to discuss "issues of trust, comparative districts and data ... extra duty pay, insurance, compensation and communication."
Buelter said salary and benefit information from school districts similar to Steamboat, along with projections about state financial assistance for next year, will guide negotiations in coming weeks.
Although team members have agreed to not discuss details of their meetings, teachers and staff with general questions are encouraged to talk to their representatives on the bargaining team, which is scheduled to meet Monday and Tuesday.
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