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Teachers, BOE continue negotiations

7/31/2014

By JUDY SHERARD

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

It's back to the board -- the board of education that is -- for Hays USD 489 Superintendent Dean Katt and board attorney Bill Jeter.

Katt and Jeter represent the board in negotiations with the Hays-NEA bargaining team.

Before negotiations begin, each team gives the other a list of items to be discussed, and the Hays-NEA "only noticed two things, and they're not even talking about those two things -- salaries, no, supplementals (to salary) no, fair dismissal, (added later) no," said Kim Schneweis, co-chairwoman of the bargaining team. "We're trying to work with them on 403b and liquidated damages (late resignation)."

"They did talk about fair dismissal," Katt said. "That's what their decision was that they're not going to approve the fair dismissal."

"We've always compromised and had committees when those things have been brought to us, so it's not like this side of the table has not been willing to compromise on issues they've brought to us," said Suzanne Leikam, bargaining team member.

"We don't have authority to respond to any counter proposal you could make to us," Jeter said.

The two groups failed to reach agreement Wednesday afternoon on several issues, including adding a fair dismissal policy to teacher contracts.

The school finance bill passed by the Legislature in April included a provision eliminating due-process rights for teachers, and Hays teachers are asking to include it in their contracts as the fair dismissal policy.

The fair dismissal procedure would "balance the relative security earned through an extended and successful probationary period with employer expectations of continued quality professional performance," according to the policy submitted by the teachers.

"That's important to the teachers," Schneweis said. "That would compel them to vote in favor of the contract. If that's not there, and there's no raise, and there's no fair dismissal, why would teachers vote for it."

"I think on the fair dismissal piece, I don't think there's a chance of that going through," Katt said.

Board member Lance Bickle said he's thought about attending the negotiations meetings but has had scheduling conflicts.

He said he's aware of the teachers' fair dismissal proposal.

"As of right now, we're not going to be making any changes to the contract," Bickle said. "We need to go through the whole contract."

With the district looking to make up a deficit of more than $1 million for the next school year, the board has focused on the budget, Bickle said.

"How can anybody be protected?" said Zach Butte, bargaining team member. "The cost seems to be one considered in dollar amounts and not considered in the quality of the services that are being provided."

The board isn't "offering anything to the teachers at all. That's something they can offer that would show they really want to retain and attract teachers," Schneweis said of the fair dismissal policy.

"You've got your salary and health insurance ... and a job," Jeter said. "It's not a good situation, but that's what it is."

The Hays district spends more than 86 percent of its budget on salaries and benefits, and the USD 489 teacher's contract "is the best contract I've ever seen," Katt said. "We can't hardly set the calendar; it's all teacher driven. It should be more administrative driven."

The board tentatively has proposed a salary freeze with no vertical or horizontal movement and a late resignation penalty for teachers.

Teachers who resign on or before June 30 would pay a late fee of $500, for resignations from July 1 to July 31, the late fee is $1,000. Any teacher resigning after Aug. 1 and until the day before school starts would pay $1,500. The board can waive payment of the late fee for good cause.

Both groups reached a tentative consensus on some changes to contact language, but more information will be gathered about changes to middle school activity sponsors and increases in pay rates for middle school gate and game workers.

Any final contract must be approved by the board of education and ratified by USD 489 certified staff.