Teachers and educators in Moffat County raise concerns about negotiations policies | CraigDailyPress.com

Teachers and educators in Moffat County raise concerns about negotiations policies

The Interest Based Strategies training or IBS met Monday to hear reports on the district budget

— Teachers and other educators in Moffat County have deep concerns about possible changes to the district's negotiation policy that could end collective bargaining, especially when it comes to their compensation.

"The Moffat County Education Association (MCEA) was confused and concerned when we saw a copy of the proposed 'Meet and Confer' policy created by the policy review committee," according to a statement from the association.

MCEA is the teachers' union for Moffat County School District. The "Meet and Confer” terminology could imply that the school board intends to end the tradition of negotiations through collective bargaining.

If the proposed policy were to replace the current policy, it would end a 58 year tradition of having educator voices make significant decisions that impact student learning conditions and teacher working conditions, the MCEA stated.

One Moffat County teacher described her experience of a similar policy change at Jefferson County Public Schools.

"When our rights were reduced, I watched the best most talented teachers leave. I don't want to see the awful things that happened in JeffCo happen here," said Lauren Pontious-Powell in a statement she made before the Moffat County School Goard on March 30.

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The current policy is so old, it was implemented the same year that Alaska was admitted as the 49th U.S. state in 1959.

It is Superintendent Dave Ulrich's understanding that last year's interim superintendent Morris Ververs strongly suggested that the board address the old policy and the board has been consulting with an attorney as part of the process, Ulrich said.

The district contracts legal services from Denver-based lawyer Kathlene Sullivan who is also chief counsel for the Colorado Association of School Boards.

As a result the current board of education is in the process of replacing the old H series policies with a new policy dubbed GBDA Board Staff Meet and Confer.

The school board was considering a first reading of the new policy at their meeting on March 30.

However, after several emotional pleas from educators describing the policy language was "like a punch in the stomach," and that it would seriously undermine trust between educators and the board, board member Jo Ann Baxter made a motion to postpone the first reading until the April 27 board meeting.

"The old policy needs to be re-worked… passing it quickly will reduce trust," said MCEA Co-President Mariah Doolin, who was one of many staff to ask the board to remove the first reading and instead enter into a conversation to re-draft the policy.

The motion to postpone carried in a vote of four to three. Those dissenting included:

Board President Darrell Camilletti, Secretary Charity Neal and board member Sue Voloshin.

"I think we have to start the process after first reading, but they can't start the process until they get through first read," Neal said of her decision not to postpone first reading of the proposed policy.

Since the school board meeting, Ulrich and board member Tony Peroulis met with MCEA leadership to discuss revisions to the policy.

Those revisions were shared with the Interest Based Strategies training (IBS) group on Monday evening.

The facilitated conversation raised a number of concerns, but it was teacher Jesse LaRose who expressed the fundamental problem MCEA has with the policy when he said, "this is not a collective bargaining agreement."

The school board will receive the recommendations at a special work session from 7 to 9 a.m. Thursday. After which the policy committee responsible for drafting the original language may consider making changes prior to the April 27 board meeting.

At that meeting, the board may decide to table the policy or move the policy to a first reading.

"This is a laborious process. It's been laborious since the 1960s. You are getting real close to getting a much better policy," said IBS Facilitator Jim Lowham, as he expressed his optimism for the future of the process and the policy.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @CDP_Education.