Steamboat Springs school bargaining team tackles personal and sick days policy | SteamboatToday.com

Steamboat Springs school bargaining team tackles personal and sick days policy

— Inside the bargaining room at the Steamboat Springs School District, employees and district representatives use a specific series of practices to reach complicated policy decisions.

For each negotiated policy up for discussion, facilitators circle the room asking for input from each Collaborative Bargaining Team member to help build the "story" of that policy.

Team members recall the history of the policy, previous changes and notable moving parts.

Tackling their first negotiated policy of the 2014-15 bargaining season Tuesday morning, team members recalled the changes throughout the years to the annual leave days policy, which covers personal and sick days for licensed and classified employees.

The ALD policy has been revised numerous times throughout the years, which drew concern from some employees.

"This just seems like not an efficient use of our time. We did all this last year," said Deirdre Boyd, a social studies teacher at Steamboat Springs High School who arrived at the meeting after teaching a first period class.

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She’s one of eight teachers on the CBT, who along with classified staff, administrators and a Steamboat Springs School Board representative will establish and revise policy that applies to all district employees.

Substitutes have been hired to cover for the teachers and some of the other employees who attend the daytime meetings, at a cost of about $130 per teacher to the district for the day.

After recalling the ALD policy's story, facilitators — one representing employees and one representing the administration — once again circle the room, asking each person for their interests regarding policy revisions.

Some are interested in keeping things status quo, others want to end the conversation and others are concerned with improving the approach for granting sick time to new employees.

Next, the group dives into options — more clearly, worded choices for changes that could be applied to the policy.

Current policy requires new employees to accrue their sick days through working overtime. Despite the policy, a new employee who needs a sick day is usually allowed to borrow a day he or she has yet to earn from the future, so that he or she can receive pay while out sick.

After brainstorming changes to the policy, the 17 participants were divided into four groups, each containing either an administrator or School Board representative Roger Good and three or four employees, and asked to devise a policy change they think the larger group will agree on.

"Let's try to do this in 10 minutes, let's come up with an option," said Eric Hansen, a facilitator and UniServ director who works for the Colorado Education Association. "What is our solution to this issue?"

When the group reconvenes, they share options and vote, taking consensus by the use of a thumb system — thumbs up is approval, thumbs down is disapproval and a sideways thumb says "You can live with it" but implies hesitation.

If a team member shares a sideways or down thumb, they must be prepared to explain why before the group moves forward.

After a discussion, the group agrees that a revised policy may allow first-year employees to access their ALD days, which include five personal days and four sick days annually, upon hiring. Access will be granted at the discretion of the superintendent or someone he designates, by allowing them to “borrow” the days from future accruals.

It's 2 1/2 hours into a seven-hour meeting of the Collaborative Bargaining Team, and the group has come to a consensus on the first of two policies they will discuss during the meeting.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

Coming in Thursday’s paper

During the second half of Tuesday’s negotiations, Collaborative Bargaining Team members discussed creating a parenting leave policy for new parents.

Bargaining goes public

With the passing of Proposition 104, Collaborative Bargaining Team negotiations in Colorado school districts will be open to the public beginning in January.

With supporters citing transparency of public funds as a primary reason for the proposition, Coloradans overwhelmingly voted 70 percent in favor of the proposition.

In anticipation of the statewide vote, the Steamboat Springs School Board voted in October to make its meetings public immediately.

As a result of that vote, a CBT planning and training meeting on Oct. 28 and the first bargaining session Tuesday were noticed and open to the public.

During the October meeting, CBT members established norms for public bargaining, which included prohibiting public comment or participation, barring the use of video or audio recording and asking the attending public to respect the process.