While most Alpine School District officials agree last year's teacher contract negotiations were ugly, they don't agree on how to prevent it from happening again.
Alpine teachers worked until mid-November without a contract. Most feel the long contract dispute caused a lot of divisiveness among teachers, students and district officials. The dispute at times became personal and involved a lot of name calling."Negotiations like we went through last year will destroy this district," board member Richard Gappmayer said.
Gappmayer said the bad feelings of last year's negotiations were caused by misinformation given to teachers and the public. To prevent that from happening again, he said the public needs to be informed on what is taking place in negotiations and the process needs to end sooner.
At last week's board meeting the school board approved several motions intended to do just that. By a 4-1 vote, the board agreed to release to employees a written summary of action taken by the Legislature regarding educational funding. Also, at timely intervals, the board will provide employees with a written summary of negotiations.
Also, the board approved a motion to declare an impasse on May 31 if no agreement is reached by that date. The process would then move to a mediator and then a fact finder, with June 30 being the deadline for an agreement.
Superintendent Steven Baugh and board member Blake Evans said setting deadlines and releasing negotiation information will tie the hands of the negotiating teams. Some of the information discussed in negotiations is best kept confidential, they said. That's why state law allows negotiations to take place behind closed doors. Also, some of the new procedures go against guidelines established by past contracts.
Jack McKelvy, district business administrator, agreed with Baugh and Evans. For negotiations to be productive, he said negotiators must have the attitude of doing what is best for both sides. That attitude was not present during last year's negotiations, he said.
"I think this is going to be a lose-lose situation," McKelvy said.
Negotiators from both sides are scheduled to meet in two weeks to discuss negotiation procedures, and Evans said it was improper to change any procedures prior to that meeting.