Agreement on three issues and a decision to tackle what may be the toughest point next was announced Tuesday in the contract negotiations between and the (DEA) teachers’ union.
The two sides met with a federal mediator Jan. 12 and reached agreement on the issues of vacancies, transfers and assignments, leaves and employee rights, according to a release by the district.
confirmed the news at a meeting Tuesday night at where union representatives gave their report on the issues surrounding the negotiations to more than 125 people.
Three major issues which remain unresolved are the compensation package, special education and teacher evaluations. Jensen said evaluations would be the focus of the next mediation Jan. 31. Another session is scheduled Feb. 8.
, both Jensen and board member Steven Schwartz appeared unwilling to budge on evaluations.
Evaluations Remain Major Issue
Teacher evaluations are being fiercely negotiated because they have long been part of the collective bargaining agreement and the administration would like to have the final word on the method of evaluating teachers, according to statements made by Schwartz Jan. 9.
“The evaluation document has been part of the agreement since 1992 and the board wants to remove the evaluation document from the agreement,” Jensen said. “We are open to negotiating it, even changing it but we want to know what we are going to be evaluated on and how we are going to be evaluated.”
Many of the people at Tuesday’s meeting, some of who spoke at as well, want to know how special education services are being handled during the mediation sessions.
Originally Board President Ellen London and Superintendent Renee Goier said special education was not part of the discussion. Schwartz finally said it was Jan. 9. Jensen has been saying the negotiation of working conditions for special education teachers will filter to aid the students.
“We can negotiate working conditions for the teachers including special education,” Jensen said. “If we can do that it will trickle down to benefit the students. At this moment it is why we are making it an issue.”
Resource Centers Are on the Table
At the last two board meetings and Tuesday night, a number of parents want to know why have been removed from the schedule at and .
The services once provided in the special periods are now done during regular classes. Jensen explained why that is detrimental to special needs students in his classes at Caruso.
“If a student is not learning the material he is pulled out of class for 15 minutes to learn it,” Jensen said. “He then misses what I’m teaching during those 15 minutes. It builds.”
While teachers cannot specifically negotiate the return of the resource centers, they can bargain for special education teachers to spend a prescribed number of minutes in a scheduled resource period, according to Adriane Reisman, a teacher and member of the negotiating team.
Schwartz agrees special education is now part of the process and looks forward to a resolution. “We are hopeful that there will be additional progress at the next session and confident that we will have eventual resolution on all of the special education issues,” he said in the release.
Schwartz also said compensation has not been part of the process for two months. “The Board last offered a reasonable salary package to the DEA in November,” he said in the release. “The union has not yet responded to the offer.”
Jensen agreed pay and benefits have not been part of the equation since November. He thinks it will be the last thing bargained.
“In my experience salary and benefits are the last thing negotiated,” Jensen said. “We want to concentrate on special education and evaluations first. Other things we discuss can impact the board’s resources and we would then have to renegotiate.”