Contract negotiation update derailed at BOE meeting, Wednesday

By John Gardner
The Surveyor

Wednesday night’s Thompson Valley School District Board of Education meeting was derailed when board Vice President Bryce Carlson motioned for Superintendent Stan Scheer and board attorney Brad Miller to draft a Memorandum of Understanding regarding the ongoing teacher’s contract negotiations that the board can present as its collective negotiating position.

Carlson requested that the draft MOU removes the current Performance Management Incentives (PMI) plan and replace it with a pay-for-performance pilot program, first and foremost, but also included in the motion was revisions to several articles that would remove the Thompson Education Association’s “access and privileges” that are not available to any other organizations in the community. As well, he requested that items better suited for a handbook or in board policy be moved to the appropriate location. Those issues included: collaborative decision making, teacher evaluations, reduction in force, leave, insurance benefits, flexible spending accounts, payroll arrangements for teachers, extra duty salaries, department chairpersons, and procedures on class size. And, finally, he moved to address options regarding current Severance and Transitions and Leave Plan, which, Carlson said, obligates [the district] to more than $11 million in pay out to retiring teachers.

“I want to make clear that my motion is not saying that we move away from severance leave, just that we recognize that it is an obligation we have as a district and so it is going to impact these other areas that we’ve all talked about in terms of steps and columns, [Public Employees’ Retirement Association], insurance, new teacher’s salaries, facility’s needs,” Carlson told the crowded room of mostly teachers and district staff in the Berthoud High School auditorium. “My opinion is that we need to honor it and we need to make good on that agreement; just that we recognize that it is an obligation that the district has and we need to take it into consideration.”

Board of Education President Bob Kerrigan asked, after the motion was seconded, if there was any further discussion to which Lori Hvizda Ward responded sarcastically, “Yeah, a little bit.”

That sparked an hour-and-a-half contentious discussion that pitted Hvizda Ward, Pam Howard and Denise Montagu against the board’s majority of Carlson, Donna Rice, Carl Langner and Kerrigan, which focused on this particular motion during what was supposed to be an update on negotiations from District Human Recourse Director Bill Siebers.

Ward argued that the manner in which Carlson requested Dr. Scheer and Miller to draft the MOU is subverting Proposition 104, which requires negotiations to be open to the public.

Carlson clarified that his request is only asking for a draft that would still be subject to negotiations.

“It’s not open,” Ward said. “It’s absolutely subverting the spirit of Proposition 104.”

In Miller’s opinion, Carlson’s motion didn’t, in any way, violate Prop 104.

“The issue would be that anything that you adopt as a board would clearly be in public,” Miller said. “If a written product was provided, it would have to come before you and it would have to be voted on in public and discussed in public–for sure.”

Sibers addressed the board by saying that, in his opinion, the motion “violates interest-based negotiations,” that are ongoing.

“Mr. Siebers,” Kerrigan interjected, “that may be what you believe but this is also the board and there is seven elected officials here that vote on this and that may be the direction that the board goes.”

Howard was concerned with adding items in this late stage that weren’t previously discussed by the board, being introduced in a motion that they would have to vote on that same evening.

“I’m very concerned with that there is something so new being presented tonight and I don’t think it’s in good faith to do that to your fellow board members or to the [Thompson Education Association],” Howard told her fellow board members.

Montagu argued that it would be premature to vote on the items Carlson wanted included without having any prior discussion.

“I have no way of knowing what the potential impact of these items would be,” Montagu said. “This isn’t what we discussed previously, so I feel ill prepared.”

Carlson said that he didn’t think it was unreasonable for the board to have something in writing that they could subsequently take action on. Miller joined in, saying that it was a sensible move by Carlson.

“It was sensible to do this two months ago when we first started negotiations; when no one wanted to step up and no one wanted to put anything out there,” Hvizda Ward contended. “And now, all of the sudden, we’re under the gun and we’re going to have an MOU that’s drafted and there’s going to be no input from one side of the negotiation, which this is about.

“It’s going to come to us and we’re going to vote on it and then what?” Hvizda Ward said. “We’re going to let them vote on it? No, I don’t think that is going to happen. We’re going to vote on it and that is going to be it.”

Then the discussion really got heated as Montagu moved to amend Carlson’s motion to go through each item listed in order to better understand each item’s potential impact.

“I don’t see any need for that,” Kerrigan said of Montagu’s request.

The motion failed: 4-3.

Siebers told the board that it was his opinion that this kind of motion at this late date disrespected the negotiation process. Hvizda Ward agreed saying that Carlson’s motion negated all the previous work done by the group to determine what to include in the MOU.

“We’re not bargaining in good faith,” Hvizda Ward said. “We’re not negotiating.”

Siebers told the board that the new information would have to be presented to the teacher’s association for input before the vote.

The board voted 4-3, approving the draft MOU and also approved a motion by Howard to hold an April 22 meeting to discuss it. That second motion passed by a 6-1 vote with Kerrigan the lone “no” vote.