School district, unions begin negotiations

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Monday, February 2, 2015 10:57pm
  • News

Next week the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will enter the 2015 collective bargain negotiations with school district teachers and support staff.

The opening meeting between negotiating teams from the district administration, Kenai Peninsula Education Association and the Kenai Peninsula Education Support Association will be Feb. 9 at 11:00 a.m. in the 4D Professional Building conference room in Soldotna.

It will be the first of a series of discussions that will determine contracts for school district support staff and educators for the next three years starting July 1, said school district spokeswoman Pegge Erkeneff.

At the initial meeting, the three groups will decide the “ground rules” for this round of negotiations including professionalism and expectations, Erkeneff said. Initial offers will also be exchanged, she said.

The education association and the support association may request to conduct meetings with the school district separately, Erkeneff said. Recently the two organizations have been asking to hold joint discussions, because they are negotiating similar topics, she said.

There are several subjects that may come up for discussion including compensation, work environment, wages, benefits and personal leave, staff assignments, and health care, Erkeneff said.

Education association spokesperson Matt Fischer said the initial offer from the school district this year may be interesting. The school district’s administrative staff has changed and for the first time a spokesperson, Saul Friedman, an attorney, has been hired for the district negotiating team, he said.

The school district’s negotiating team also includes Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Support Dave Jones, Director of Secondary Education John O’Brien, Director of Human Resources Joann Riener, Erkeneff said. Interim Superintendent Sean Dusek will not be involved in the process, she said.

“It is not yet determined if the meetings will be open to the public,” Erkeneff said. “That is something that will be mutually agreed on by the three negotiating teams.”

No minutes of the meetings will be posted publicly, Erkeneff said. The public will be able to submit written or verbal commentary to the Board of Education at scheduled meetings or on the school district website through out the entire process, she said.

Fischer said he hopes the meetings are open to the public. Not only does this increase understanding of the process but also encourages accountability, he said.

Each round of negotiations does not necessarily result in an overhaul of the contracts, Erkeneff said. Throughout the discussions, any sections in the education association contract or any articles in the support association contract up for revision are labeled as a “Tentative Agreement,” she said.

Once the agreements have been resolved, both sides revise and ratify their official contracts and the Board of Education must vote whether or not to accept the school district’s finalized contract, Erkeneff said. The school district’s proposals during the negotiations are a combination of assessing the “general fund balance, next year’s deficit, fiscal reality and compensating our teachers who work really, really hard,” Erkeneff said.

“The district always looks at how to be fiscally responsible,” Erkeneff said.

 

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

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