Park City teachers union to change leadership |

Park City teachers union to change leadership

Incoming co-president says maintaining communication with district officials is critical

Alane Gaspari, right, is replacing Renee Pinkney, left, as co-president of the Park City Education Association. Gaspari and the organizations other new co-president, Ben Kahn, will seek to build on the progress made during the term of Pinkney and Sam Thompson.

Fresh off negotiating a substantial raise for teachers that will make them the highest paid in Utah, the Park City Education Association is gearing up for a leadership change.

Alane Gaspari, a teacher at Parley's Park Elementary School, and Ben Kahn, from Trailside Elementary School, are set to take over as co-presidents of the association, which is the union that represents teachers in the Park City School District. They will replace Renee Pinkney and Sam Thompson, who led the organization for the past two years.

From Gaspari's perspective, their top priority will be maintaining the bridges Thompson and Pinkney helped establish with district administration. The relationship between teachers and the district has at times been contentious — most notably during tense negotiations that stretched for months in 2012 and 2013 — but has improved over the last few years.

By all accounts, the recently completed salary negotiations and ongoing discussions to strike a licensed professional agreement have been smooth.

"I think the big thing is going to be continuing with the work we've already done," Gaspari said. "Renee and Sam have really built strong communication with the (Board of Education) and with the district. So, I think we want to keep it going. More of the same."

But maintaining that level of communication will take effort. Gaspari and Kahn are set to take over the association at a time of tremendous change as the district moves forward with plans to expand Park City High School, build a new school for fifth- and sixth-graders, realign the grade structure and change school start times.

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Pinkney said it will be crucial for both district leadership and the education association to work together to keep teachers apprised of new developments, and ensure they have a seat at the table in the decision-making process. She applauded the efforts so far of the Board of Education and district administrators, who have included teachers in committees exploring the changes and have sent surveys to teachers to get their feedback on important issues.

"It's critical, feeling like we have a voice and ability to share our opinions," Pinkney said. "We are the ones who are working with the students and are in the buildings to see what happens day to day. Hopefully, we're seen as the experts that can kind of help things along. It's very important to have a say in what's happening going forward."

Pinkney said, despite the challenges that await, she is confident Gaspari and Kahn will be able to build on what she and Thompson achieved over the last two years. All four of them are eager to make the transition as smooth as possible.

"It's important that there's communication from one team to the next for PCEA," she said. "We are constantly trying to build capacity in terms of leadership. … There will be communication back and forth."

Classified employees also finalize contract

The Park City Education Association wasn't the only group negotiating with the district this spring. On Tuesday, the district finalized a compensation agreement with the Park City Classified Employees Association, which represents employees like janitorial, secretarial and food service staff.

According to documents from the district, the three-year agreement includes 4 percent cost-of-living raises for all classified employees and $1,200 for housing and travel. The contract also stipulates that long-term employees will receive bonuses for reaching certain milestones. An employee will earn a $2,000 one-time bonus in his or her 20th year, for example, and $3,000 in their 30th year.

As part of the agreement, the district will also conduct a market analysis during next school year to examine job descriptions and duties of current classified positions.