The Park City Education Association formally announced an impasse in teacher negotiations Friday, a process that will call a mediator into discussions between teachers and the Park City School District. The impasse came after several months of negotiations, including discussions on a new salary table that would change the timeline and amount teachers are paid.
Since April, teachers and administrators have been attempting to find common ground on salaries for the current school year even introducing the concept of a multi-year contract that would look into the long term with little luck in reaching an agreement. Initially, the association agreed to salary freezes this year with the idea that a three-year-long agreement would be able to compensate for losses in future school years.
"This is the first impasse in recent memory," said Mo Hickey, the Park City Board of Education President. "I think the board was prepared to continue negotiating, but now that an impasse has been declared, we are readying for the next step."
"I wouldn't characterize the move as aggressive," he added. " We were willing to continue to negotiate and felt there was quite a bit of progress. There are some issues we could not quite solve."
The letter from the local teachers union calls for an impartial party to join discussions on teacher contracts for the school district. The PCEA Co-Presidents Ed Mulick and Jim Fleming were eligible to file for impasse after 90 days of negotiations, but now that the process has stretched on into January, they made the decision to take the process to the next step of the process.
"For us, this is a way to get unstuck," Mulick said. "We're over halfway through the school year and we still don't have a contract. It is impacting morale."
"We agreed to a pay freeze to show the district we care," he added. "When we started working on year-two issues, instead of them meeting us, they have completely changed what we thought we were negotiating. We never said we wanted to change salaries. But they are proposing an alternative form of compensations."
Fleming added to the thought.
"It was a sudden, shift that we would argue was not in the best interest for teachers," he said. "We never wanted to scrap a system teachers feel is working."
At this point in the school year, it is unusual not to have reached a decision on teacher contracts, said State Superintendent Martell Menlove, but that it was not unheard of to still be in talks. Menlove has served the State Office of Education for the past three years, and in that time, he has seen three other school districts file impasse with his office.
"The law allows districts and teacher associations to access the state offices, which will be able to assign an individual to alleviate an impasse," Menlove said. "I have not heard from the Park City School District or the local teacher association yet."
Though the Park City School District has not filed an impasse with the state office the association is trying to keep the impasse process local if district administrators and the teacher association cannot agree on a mediator, the parties must go to the state for a recommended list. Once the State Office of Education is involved in the process, a timeline will be set into motion where strict deadlines will be applied to the negotiation process.
"Either party can choose to contact me and ask to be assigned a mediator," he added, "but I would encourage them, if they can find someone they agree on the mediate the process, to reach an agreement without involving the state. That is the best idea."
If negotiations involve the state, one party in the negotiations process files impasse and is provided a list of third-party mediators from the Utah State Office of Education. From there, the two parties will have 15 days to reach a decision. The process would then move to assigning a hearing officer that would handle the case, collecting facts from both sides and issue a report that would be publically released on the entire process dating back to April in the case of Park City.
With the implementation of Utah Senate Bill 64, a law that would take effect in the 2014-15 school year and would pay teachers based on performance rather than time spent in the district, Menlove said he would not be surprised to see more negotiation stalls in other school districts. Park City may be facing an impasse earlier than other districts due to the multi-year agreement component that was originally a part of the negotiations.
"School districts may implement the law earlier," Menlove said, " but as S.B. 64 is fully implemented, I anticipate there will be some other issues in school districts. It's going to be a different system, widespread changes, and teacher evaluations will have different meanings. There is the potential for negotiation issues as the bill is implemented down the line."
53A-7-101. Mediation of contract negotiations.
(1) The president of a professional local organization which represents a majority of the licensed employees of a school district or the chairman or president of a local school board may, after negotiating for 90 days, declare an impasse by written notification to the other party and to the State Board of Education. (2) The party declaring the impasse may request the state superintendent of public instruction to appoint a mediator for the purpose of helping to resolve the impasse if the parties to the dispute have not been able to agree on a third party mediator. (3) Within five working days after receipt of the written request, the state superintendent shall appoint a mediator who is mutually acceptable to the local school board and the professional organization representing a majority of the licensed employees. (4) The mediator shall meet with the parties, either jointly or separately, and attempt to settle the impasse. (5) The mediator may not, without the consent of both parties, make findings of fact or recommend terms for settlement. (6) Both parties shall equally share the costs of mediation. (7) Nothing in this section prevents the parties from adopting a written mediation procedure other than that provided in this section. (8) If the parties have a mediation procedure, they shall follow that procedure.
Information provided by the Utah State Legislature
53A-7-102. Appointment of hearing officer -- Hearing process. (1) If a mediator appointed under Section 53A-7-101 is unable to effect settlement of the controversy within 15 working days after his appointment, either party to the mediation may by written notification to the other party and to the state superintendent of public instruction request that their dispute be submitted to a hearing officer who shall make findings of fact and recommend terms of settlement. (2) Within five working days after receipt of the request, the state superintendent of public instruction shall appoint a hearing officer who is mutually acceptable to the local school board and the professional organization representing a majority of the certificated employees. (3) The hearing officer may not, without consent of both parties, be the same person who served as mediator. (4) The hearing officer shall meet with the parties, either jointly or separately, may make inquiries and investigations, and may issue subpoenas for the production of persons or documents relevant to all issues in dispute. (5) The State Board of Education and departments, divisions, authorities, bureaus, agencies, and officers of the state, local school boards, and the professional organization shall furnish the hearing officer, on request, all relevant records, documents, and information in their possession. (6) If the final positions of the parties are not resolved before the hearing ends, the hearing officer shall prepare a written report containing the agreements of the parties with respect to all resolved negotiated contract issues and the positions that the hearing officer considers appropriate on all unresolved final positions of the parties. (7) The hearing officer shall submit the report to the parties privately within 10 working days after the conclusion of the hearing or within the date established for the submission of post-hearing briefs, but not later than 20 working days after the hearing officer's appointment. (8) Either the hearing officer, the professional organization, or the local board may make the report public if the dispute is not settled within 10 working days after its receipt from the hearing officer. (9) (a) The state superintendent of public instruction may determine the majority status of any professional organization which requests assistance under this section. (b) The decision of the superintendent is final unless it is clearly inconsistent with the evidence.
Information provided by the Utah State Legislature