Archive for Thursday, December 8, 2005

Teacher negotiations at impasse

December 8, 2005

After months of attempting to settle teacher contracts for the current year, Eudora USD 491 has opted to bring in professional mediation to help solve the struggle.

The talks have reached an impasse and will most likely be delayed until January.

"It's not really that unusual of an event," Kansas Association of School Boards representative Donna Whiteman said. "Impasse has basically occurred if you haven't reached an agreement by the statutory deadline."

Normally, the deadline for an impasse in teacher negotiations is June 2, but when the Kansas Legislature wrestled into the summer to find a solution to court-ordered funding mandates, many districts applied for more time.

Since the summer, members of the Eudora Board of Education and the Eudora National Education Association have attempted ---- unsuccessfully ---- to come to terms on a new contract.

After several contract offers from both sides, and an eventual lopsided rejection of an offer by the district, both parties will work through the Kansas Department of Labor for a solution.

The key divisive issues during negotiations have centered on what the teachers see as unbalanced pay rates in both pay rates and salary benefits compared to other local districts.

"If the parties can't reach an agreement after June 2, the mediator meets with both parties and the mediator tries to define the issues and encourage agreement," Whiteman said. "It's sort of like shuttle diplomacy trying to help the parties reach some sort of compromise."

Should the mediation fail, a representative from the Kansas Department of Labor would take things a step further.

"If they can't reach an agreement through the mediation process, then they go to the second stage, called fact-finding which is more formal," Whiteman said.

The fact-finding process would take place as part of an adjudicated process, meaning both sides would present evidence to the fact finder, and the fact finder would eventually make the decision.

After the fact finder makes a decision, it's sent to both parties and the school board has 10 days to choose hether to accept the fact finder's decision and make a settlement or not, Whiteman said.

If the school board decides not to accept the fact finder's decision, it could offer a unilateral contract to all the teachers.

At that point, either the teachers will accept the contract or work pursuant to the contract for the previous year, Whiteman said.

Kansas' statutes forbid teachers from striking.

"It shows the focus on education is so important that we don't want them to lose a day of it," Whiteman said.

Eudora National Education Association President Bob Sailler said he was hopeful mediations would produce a contract.

"We look forward to mediation and hopefully the mediator will bring the two sides together," Sailler said.

Because of the impasse, Eudora Superintendent Marty Kobza refused to comment on the negotiations.

"They are at impasse and in essence when they are at impasse it's not something we can discuss openly," Kobza said.

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