Park City School District readies for round of teacher negotiations
Sides are hoping for agreements by end of May
March 7, 2017
The Park City School District and the union that represents the district's teachers are beginning another round of negotiations.
According to Tim McConnell, the district's human resources director, the district will be separately negotiating with the Park City Education Association (PCEA) on both a compensation package and the licensed professional agreement (LPA) that governs day-to-day operations. Compensation bargaining was last held in the spring of 2015, while the current LPA was signed last summer and is set to expire June 30.
Entering the process, McConnell said the district's top goal is to come to an equitable two-year compensation agreement, which would give both sides some breathing room before coming back to the bargaining table in 2019.
"We've had multi-year agreements in the past," he said. "When we're able to achieve those, it just makes the in-between year go a lot smoother if things are lined out in regard to how people are going to be compensated."
Renee Pinkney, a social studies teacher at Park City High School who is on the PCEA's compensation negotiation team, said Education Association's primary aim is ensuring that Park City is able to attract and retain teachers capable of keeping the district among the best in the state. At a time when teachers are leaving the profession at an alarming rate throughout the country and the rest of Utah, she said it's more critical than ever to give educators a reason to spend their careers in Park City.
That's money that will ultimately benefit the education students receive, she added.
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"The retention is huge because then you're able to develop curriculum that is common, and you're not constantly restarting every year," said Pinkney, who has taught in Park City for 21 years. "Every time you bring someone new in, you have to start over. You're in a constant restart."
Both sides are hopeful that negotiations will go smoothly, and they are aiming to get them wrapped up by the end of May. Discussions were lengthy and contentious in 2012 and 2013, and severely damaged the district's relationship with teachers, but the most recent round of talks in 2015 saw a more cordial process, a quicker outcome and many ties repaired.
"Obviously we're hopeful that, regardless of the specifics of what's being negotiated, it will be done in a professional manner with each of the groups," McConnell said. "The thing that's always the unknown is there's limited dollars, depending on everything that needs to be done with regard to our programs and people. But I believe both sides are interested in providing the best programs and working environment possible for the Park City kids and for our employees. That will be the focus of what we're working toward."
The sides will be negotiating using what's called an interest-based approach. That method, which proved successful in the 2015 talks, is designed to make both groups consider the perspective of the other side throughout the process. The hope is that mindset will make the discussions fruitful, respectful and focused.
"It's just a different way to frame the dialogue," McConnell said. "What you're asked to do is to continually keep in mind the other group's interests as you're moving forward and trying to come to an agreement that'll work for both sides and not just specifically focus on what your interest or demand is. You take into account the mutual interests and the interests from the other side."
Even so, Pinkney and Janice Jones, a PCHS science teacher who's also on the PCEA bargaining team, said a fissure remains between teachers and the district, despite the cordial negotiations in 2015. They said many teachers don't feel that their voices are heard, and that's a deficiency Pinkney and Jones would like to see repaired.
They said they are entering negotiations with open minds and a fresh perspective, but remain apprehensive about how things may play out.
"I've watched interest-based (methods) not be used, even after having been trained in it when I first came to the district," Jones said. "I am going in, I guess, with a little bit of skepticism."
In addition to teachers and licensed staff, the district is also entering negotiations with both administrators and classified staff, such as teacher aides and custodial staff. McConnell said the district is hoping to reach a two-year deal with its classified staff, which is represented by the Park City Classified Employees Association.
McConnell said those deals should be in place by the end of the school year, as well.
"The issues with our classified staff, there are some parallels to what happens with our licensed staff, but there are also things that occur differently within the agreements and within the compensation piece," he said.