School district and unions take first steps in negotiations

  • By KAT SORENSEN
  • Tuesday, January 16, 2018 6:45pm
  • News

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is in the first stages of the 2018 collective bargain negotiations, which include salary, benefits and working conditions, with school district teachers and support staff.

In a letter dated Dec. 15, 2017, representatives from the Kenai Peninsula Education Association and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association, unions representing teachers and other school workers, respectively, formally requested the district and the associations open negotiations “with the respect to successor agreements.”

“We’re looking forward to it,” KPEA President David Brighton said at Monday night’s school board meeting. “… I hope that things can progress a little more smoothly and a little quicker.”

Negotiations for the 2015 to 2018 contract began in February of 2015, but stretched out over 18 months, with the board approving agreements with its employee associations in November 2016.

In an interview Tuesday, Brighton explained that the district and the associations will initially meet to exchange first proposals and to walk through the different points of the contract.

“Anything that we’re not proposing a change on and that they’re not proposing a change on, we can agree on that sign a tentative agreement on,” Brighton said. “So it’s nice to that on the first day we get to sign off on much of the contract.”

From there, the bargaining begins but Brighton said he hopes to avoid some of the contention of past negotiations.

“The district doesn’t want a drawn out process and we don’t want a drawn out process,” Brighton said. “… I hope we can sit down and talk things out.”

Currently, there is no formalized date for the associations to meet with the district to go over initial contract proposals, but Brighton said that as the associations have worked on their initial proposal, they’ve kept the classroom in mind.

“Our focus this time is student based bargaining, which means that as we wrote our initial proposal we focused on things that would improve student learning,” Brighton said. “We want to provide the best learning environment possible for our children.”

Following Monday night’s meeting, the school board went into executive session and again, on Tuesday morning during a special meeting in Superintendent Sean Dusek’s office, “to discuss employee contract negotiations,” according to board documents.

At Monday’s meeting, Dusek said that the district hopes to get started on the negotiations “relatively soon, after we have a couple of discussions.”

In anticipation of these conversations, board members Mike Illg, Zen Kelly and Jason Tauriainen disclosed potential conflicts of interest since all three have spouses who are employed by the school district. Board President Penny Vadla ruled that there three board members could participate in the process and that there were no conflicts because “this does not constitute substantial financial interest.”

Vadla also said that the public will have an opportunity to comment on the process as it progresses and that any meetings will be announced via the district’s website.

“The current negotiated agreement requires that we hold an initial bargaining session by Feb. 15,” said district spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff in an interview. “So the district is in the midst of budget preparation and is in the process of preparing negotiations for the associations to be exchanged by Feb. 15.”

The district has created an online forum for public engagement on the collective bargaining negotiations on its website at bit.ly/PublicCommentNegotiations. The public is invited to comment on the collective bargaining either through the online comment form or via email to negotiations@kpbsd.org, fax, mail or in person at the district office.

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

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