Archive for Thursday, September 6, 2007

New meeting set for negotiations

September 6, 2007

After a meeting with a mediator Aug. 29, the Eudora USD 491 Board of Education and the Eudora National Education Association agreed at least one more meeting was needed.

The two sides will reconvene in closed session Sept. 19.

At the Aug. 29 meeting, the ENEA discussed a salary counter-proposal to an offer the district made in July. The two sides are discussing contracts for both the 2007-08 school year and the 2008-09 school year.

"Sometime the process seems slow but it's designed to get the best settlement that we can get," ENEA lead negotiator Bruce Lindskog said. "We just have to be patient I guess."

Lindskog is the director of the Kansas NEA's Prairie Fire Uniserv.

Because of the mediation process, a copy of the teacher's proposal was not available, Lindskog said. The teacher's proposal will be available following the mediation stage, he said.

"The purpose of mediation is to keep the parties out of the sunshine and in a position where they will be less likely to deadlock to save face," Lindskog said.

Although the teacher's proposal is still under wraps, district officials released amendments to their salary offer.

The first year offer remained the same. In it, the district proposed a$1,000 increase to the base teacher salary for the 2007-08 school year along with a $10 addition to the teachers' health insurance benefit. The teachers' current base salary is $31,400. The district also included an increase in the hourly rate paid to driver's education instructors and increased the amount reimbursed to teachers for college credit.

District officials were more flexible with the second-year contract.

"Primarily because the district sees an opportunity for more revenue to be available in the second year than there is right now," Eudora Superintendent Marty Kobza said.

For the 2008-09 school year, the district amended its original base salary increase to $1,250 from $1,100 and increased the health insurance by an additional $15, or $5 more than first proposed. The district also offered guidelines on the initial placement of teachers on the salary schedule. In the past, the district had agreed to put teachers in hard-to-fill positions higher on the pay scale. The new guidelines would solidify if and when that would happen, Kobza said.

The board also offered to reduce the amount of work time required outside the regular school day. The extra hours often are used for meetings or other outside responsibilities.

Kobza characterized the talks thus far as amicable.

"I think it's been cooperative," Kobza said. "I think in any negotiation process there are going to be points people disagree on, but I think both parties really have the same thing in mind and that is what's best for the children of Eudora."

The next step in the mediation process either will end in an agreement between both parties, move into a fact-finding stage or continue with further talks.

After the fact-finding process, the district could have the ability to issue a unilateral contract. Teachers could either accept the unilateral contract or they could reject it and operate under the previous year's contract. Teachers also would have the opportunity to terminate their employment with the district without penalty at that point.

Lindskog said the two parties have potential to reach an agreement at the next meeting.

"I think it's possible," he said.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.