Teachers Send Message to Board

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Hundreds want union negotiations done before signing their contracts

About 20 teachers, representing colleagues from more than 36 Douglas County schools and hundreds of staff members, delivered a unified message to the school board May 15: Finish negotiations on the 2012-13 collective bargaining agreement and extend the lifespan of the current agreement beyond June 30.

One after the other, teachers read letters with that message during the board meeting’s public comment session. In each case, dozens of staff members had signed the letters.

The school district requires teachers to sign their individual contracts by June 15, and those who spoke during the May 15 board meeting said they want to know the terms of the collective bargaining agreement first.

The teachers union’s May 9 request for an extension, flatly denied by the district, anticipated a delay in negotiations that both sides say they don’t want or expect. But union leaders want the reassurance of the extension nonetheless.

District officials also have drafted a teachers’ handbook, which can be used in place of a collective bargaining agreement. Although the district’s negotiations team members would not confirm last week they were creating a handbook, a draft copy was posted on its website May 15.

Several teachers expressed concern about the handbook.

“The collective bargaining agreement offers protection a handbook does not,” ThunderRidge High School teacher Brian White said.

Without a collective bargaining agreement, he predicted, the district would lose its best teachers to districts that have them.

The district’s refusal to extend the deadline makes some teachers nervous, said Teddy Goldman, a teacher at Mountain Vista High School.

“This past year has been particularly difficult,” he said, citing the fall 2011 failure of the proposed bond issue, anticipated additional cuts and pending changes in the high school schedule to help address the district’s financial shortfalls. “Worry and uncertainty has taken its toll on the teachers of Douglas County.”

The extension, he said, would provide “good faith reassurance” to the teachers.

Reaction from board members was mixed.

“I have not made it a secret I want a collective bargaining agreement,” said Meghann Silverthorn. “I do think we’ll be able to get an agreement by June 30.”

Negotiations resume May 24.

“We hope to see some movement on the issues that are on the table,” board president John Carson said. “So far, we haven’t seen much. Collaboration is a two-way street.”

To view the draft handbook, go online to dcsdk12.org and type “handbook” in the search bar.