- Associated Press - Monday, July 27, 2015

July 27—With less than a month before school starts and no collective bargaining agreement in place, the Greeley-Evans School District 6 Board of Education has called for a special work session to discuss strategy going forward.

The 9 a.m. Wednesday work session comes nearly four months after negotiations between District 6 administrators and the Greeley teachers union started. It also comes loaded with the concern that this year’s negotiations will mirror last year’s, which ended with failed mediation and the board imposing terms on teachers.

Board of Education President Roger DeWitt said after hearing an update on negotiations from Chief Operations Officer Wayne Eads, he felt it was time for the board to register its opinion on the path of negotiations.

“I continue to be hopeful that we can make some kind of breakthrough with (the Greeley Education Association), and that could happen without a repeat of last year,” DeWitt said. “We’ve said in countless work sessions that we want to avoid something that’s a loss for everyone.”

Neither Eads nor GEA President Pat Otto would comment individually on the state of negotiations or the need for the school board work session. The two sides have apparently agreed to renew last year’s philosophy of providing only joint statements to the media.

It’s one of just a few things the two sides have agreed upon in four months of meetings. Both sides expressed optimism in a joint statement:

“D6 and GEA agree that good conversation and discussion took place at the last negotiation meeting and there is a better understanding of each other’s position. We are still hopeful that an agreement can be reached and we are working towards (sic) that goal.”

This year’s negotiations have not reached the point of impasse or mediation. But with just two, half-day sessions left Aug. 11-12, the timeframe for agreement is shrinking. And it’s shrinking largely because of a single, contentious issue.

District officials have tried five approaches to address hard-to-fill positions, including specialized service providers like school psychologists.

The union has rejected each, either offering some variation of the status quo or advocating for the creation of a committee to study the problem.

District officials maintain they can’t hire certain positions within the prescribed teacher pay schedule. In short, it needs to pay those positions more.

Although this problem has been known for eight years, the two sides haven’t been able to come to agreement over how to fix it.

Instead, the district has resorted to patchwork fixes to fill positions. For years, the district has paid upward of $100,000 per position to have third-party contractors fill positions. Pointing to wasted money, district officials last year began unilaterally hiring specialized service providers using the administrator pay schedule.

That move not only provided an immediate salary boost to incoming health-care-related positions, it also drew a lawsuit, filed in March by the Greeley Education Association.

With the lawsuit dangling as leverage and a philosophical disagreement over equality versus market-based hiring practices, the District 6 Board of Education will meet to offer its input on a solution.

“I’m just concerned that we haven’t made much progress in all this time,” DeWitt said. “We’re coming close to the start of school, and we’re in the same place we were last year.”

Tyler Silvy covers education for The Greeley Tribune. Reach him at [email protected] Connect with him at Facebook.com/TylerSilvy or @TylerSilvy on Twitter.

” I continue to be hopeful that we can make some kind of breakthrough with (the Greeley Education Association), and that could happen without a repeat of last year. —Roger dewitt, Board of Education president

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(c)2015 the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.)

Visit the Greeley Tribune (Greeley, Colo.) at www.greeleytribune.com

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