Park City teachers eye controversy in Ogden School District
July 12, 2011
When teacher-salary negotiations broke down in Ogden last week, leaders of the Park City Education Association, the local teachers union, sat up and took notice.
The PCEA and the Park City school board failed to reach a contract agreement in June and have tabled negotiations until the fall. But when the Ogden teachers’ union and board members hit a similar impasse, the school board issued an ultimatum. The teachers there were given a choice of signing individual contacts by July 20 or seeing their jobs advertised in the classifieds.
According to Heidi Matthews, the president of the Park City Education Association, the situation in Ogden is an affront to teachers throughout the state.
"It’s a unilateral dismissal of the negotiation process that has existed for decades," Matthews said.
The biggest issue is Ogden’s insistence on moving to a performance (merit) pay model, which has yet to be defined by the district, said Matthews.
"First off, the performance pay is enormously expensive. With performance pay you can have all sorts of strong teachers making significant amounts of money," Matthews said.
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She added that merit pay will inevitably cause competition among teachers, pitting one teacher against another.
"Why do we want to do that to the group of people who have the most influence over the students’ success?" Matthews asked.
According to Matthews, the Ogden teachers are planning to hold a rally before walking two blocks to the district office to turn in their contracts on July 20 and to show solidarity with their fellow teachers, a number of teachers from Park City are planning to attend the demonstration
Ogden’s Superintendent of Schools Noel Zabriskie, explains that the performance pay will be implemented over a six-year period. He added that the school board is looking at basing performance pay on several factors, not just test scores.
Zabriskie added that he is hoping for the best on July 20.
"We remain optimistic. We have really good teachers and we believe that once they educate themselves on where we’re heading with this they’ll remain with us," Zabriskie said.
Park City School Board President Moe Hickey said the Park City school board has also been following the controversy in Ogden.
"I think a lot of people in the state are going to be watching. Unfortunately, when budgets are tight, people are looking for places to make cuts," he said. "It wasn’t too surprising, but personally I think it’s something we want to watch and something we want to see but not necessarily emulate."
"I hate to say it but we’ve seen it in other states. It’s a growing movement to squash associations," Hickey said.
Hickey said the Park City school board and teachers have a good relationship, and although there are disagreements, he thinks they will be able to iron them out when they resume negotiations in August.
According to Hickey, performance or merit pay has been discussed in Park City. However, he said there isn’t a clear definition of what the term means or if it would work well for the district.
Last month, despite the unfinished teacher salary negotiations, the Park City school board was forced to vote on a proposed budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year which began July 1. As approved, it calls for no increase in overall teacher salaries or benefits.