School district, associations start mediation

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Monday, September 21, 2015 10:45pm
  • News

Closed mediation has begun between the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and the Kenai Peninsula Education and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support associations.

Negotiating teams for the school district and the two local associations met on Monday with a mediator, Ligia Velazquez, from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service’s Seattle office, breaking the impasse mutually declared by the three organizations in April. Currently, the only other set meeting date is Tuesday. Both will be held at the George A. Navarre Administration Building in Soldotna.

“The mediator initially meets with the district and bargaining teams to explain and discuss the mediation process,” said school district spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff. “The mediator will meet separately with the district and associations in order to discuss confidential information about bargaining positions and strategy.”

During the mediation process, the school district negotiating team sits in a separate room from the negotiating teams for the two associations, which agreed to collaborate on the negotiating process for the teacher and support staff contracts, originally set to start on July 1, 2015.

The mediator will work as a liaison between the school district and both associations, Erkeneff said. The mediator, who can request a joint session at any point, will deliver questions and proposals from both sides, and identify potential areas of collaboration, she said.

“Salaries and health care are the two primary bargaining areas that have not been resolved,” Erkeneff said.

The two September dates were submitted by the conciliation service, and best worked for the school district and both associations, Erkeneff said. It is unknown at this time whether those two meetings will provide enough time to resolve anything unsettled, she said.

“Due to the confidential nature of the conversations, mediation is not open to public attendance,” Erkeneff said.

KPEA President Matt Fischer declined to comment, to uphold the privacy encouraged by the process.

The associations and the school district submitted their original offers in the form of modifications to the 2012-2013 through 2014-2015 school year contracts on Feb. 9. The school district proposed one-year contracts, and the associations proposed again signing three-year contracts.

Once a tentative agreement is reached, in which both sides agree on the resolution of a revision, the two associations and school district must separately ratify contracts. The Board of Education must approve all contracts before they can be ratified.

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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