Local teachers union storms PCSD meeting
During the Park City School District school board meeting last week, 220 teachers representing the local teachers union packed the room to show their support for their organization and the current negotiations taking place concerning teacher contracts.
In the middle of PCSD Business Administrator Todd Hauber’s presentation, concerning the current budget information titled, Understanding Fund Balances: How did we get from $5 million deficiency to a $14 million fund balance, to the board and attendees, most of the teachers left the room in unison.
"The (teachers) union came here to show a presence in numbers and we accomplished that," said Susan Tabke, special education teacher at McPolin Elementary, while she and the other teachers left the PCSD office.
After teachers had vacated the room, and those sitting on the floor found seats, one who has hopes of joining the ranks of the teachers remained — he had something to accomplish too.
With the room attendance more bearable to breathing, Major Cody Barker of the United States Air Force stood before the board and explained why the soon to be retired military man wants to become a Park City teacher, but he said he has some concerns.
Barker, a Summit Park resident, is approaching retirement after serving 24 years in the military and is considering swapping career paths in the area. Yet, information given to him by friends, who are teachers in the district, has made him wary of the decision he described as his calling and the reason he addressed the board, he said during an interview with The Park Record earlier this week.
"As far as I would say, the only thing holding me back from applying for a teaching job in Park City when I retire is the tangibility, or rather the non-tangibility aspects of teacher benefits," Barker said. "I have a family that I need to support and walking into a decision like this, knowing contracts are in limbo, is causing me to be hesitant in pursuing this career. If I commit to them, I would like to think they would do the same to me."
Nearly a year has passed since discussions first began between PCSD administrators and the local teachers union concerning teacher contracts.
Last month, the district brought in Lavon Ritter, a third-party mediator from Las Vegas Nev., to help negotiate the concerns between both parties, about pay and benefits for teachers working in the school district. With budget issues still at the forefront of administrative efforts, coming to an agreement with teachers has proven difficult.
"We continue to meet, and we continue to remain cautiously optimistic," said Interim Superintendent Tom VanGorder. "We are talking about the issues that are important to both sides, but I cannot say or predict when the resolution will come forward."
This coming January, Barker will be retired from the military, which will also cause him to leave his current position, assistant professor of aerospace studies, a department in the universities ROTC program.
"I’m a long-term type of person, so the one and done thing with jobs doesn’t work for me," Barker said. "I used to do the same thing I’m doing now at BYU from 1998 to 2001. I’d like to find a spot for me to spend a career teaching and using my skills in Park City."
Barker, who is 43 years old and a Summit County resident for the last three years, has worked at the university since returning to Utah after his last deployment.
During the 11 months while he was stationed in Kabul, Afghanistan – Barker, who was a Navy reservist for four years before his Air Force career, was in charge of the Army’s decoration program in the country. Responsibilities were to process paperwork that is required before a soldier is honored with a medal. He ensured the personal information was accurate and investigated whether the medal was validly earned.
"As a human resources guy (with the air force), it seems really odd to me that these issues are taking place and it’s hard to believe they haven’t been resolved in such a long time," Barker said. "One of the reasons my wife (Carrie) and I pulled the trigger and found a home here in Park City is because of how good the school district is compared to others around the country. We have little kids that are students here and that is really important to us."
Both of Barker’s parents worked in the school district in his home town of Albuquerque, N.M. His father was a teacher for 32 years, while his mother worked as a secretary for the school district, which helped engrain the skill in him, he said.
Along with his parents, teachers from his past also inspired him to teach. Barker’s Jr. ROTC instructors, Jack Eyester and Gerald McDowell, who taught at Del Norte High School in Albuquerque, gave him the confidence in his leadership skills to pursue his military career, and now a teaching vocation.
"I had a lot of people believe in me and my ability to lead while growing up," Barker said. "I feel obligated to do the same with students here in Park City. I just hope things can get resolved between the teachers and school board soon."
Without any ROTC programs in PCSD, Barker said he would like to teach history or work with leadership programs at the high school when his military commitment comes to an end in January.
The ongoing salary freeze, which is in effect until teachers agree to a contract, prevents any teachers on track to receive any scheduled increases to their salary. Teacher pay in the PCSD uses a step and lane system. Teachers receive automatic salary increases, or steps in pay, for the amount of time they have served in the school district, and are also compensated for continuing education, such as taking extra classes or earning additional degrees.
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Debate continues about schooling in a pandemic, as Park City students petition to stay in school, 78% of secondary teachers opt for remote, and case numbers remain low ahead of a feared post-Thanksgiving spike.