Teacher,school board negotiations grow tense
Frustration among teachers is growing as their contract negotiations continue, unresolved, three months into the new school year.
Teachers’ contracts have been in limbo since June of the last school year. Park City Education association and the Park City School District are still in closed negotiations over a new contract, and both sides have agreed not to discuss negotiations until a new contract has been reached, or negotiations reach an impasse.
But teachers have a lot they want to express and are growing frustrated maintaining their agreed-upon silence on contract issues.
The school board has also maintained silence during negotiations, limiting discussions to only the Park City school budget during the Tuesday, Nov. 7 board meeting.
Teachers turned out en masse to the school board meeting, listening to an independent auditor detail the shrinking school budget reserves. The auditor, Ray Bartholomew, of the firm Squire & Company PC, confirmed that expenditures were accounted for, but that the budget reserve was almost $5 million lower than what a district with a $35 million annual budget should maintain.
School board member Vern Christensen, spoke with The Park Record, and with station KPCW about budget issues discussed at the board meeting, and addressed budget issues that may impact the contract negotiations.
Two teachers came forward expressing a lack of fair play on Christensen’s part, feeling he had gone public with his views, in violation of the good-will maintained by both sides up until that point.
"Our perception is at this point when a board member goes before the press, presenting a board position why teachers should not receive a raise," it is our understanding this is not supposed to be aired in public until negotiations are resolved or it gets to a point of impass," said Park City High School teacher John Krenkel.
"We are not afraid for our jobs. We have no concern over repercussions, but this, on the part of the board member, is almost the definition of bad-faith negotiations."
"There is a lot of concern," said Krenkel. "We’re three months into the school year without a new contract. We’ve had meetings trying to air our concerns," he said. "We’re very proud of our teachers for not going to the press."
Christensen responded, believing he expressed only public-known facts and not opinions. "I do think the public has a right to hear what’s going on with school-budget issue," he said. "Everything I said in the story was presented in the school board meeting. It has been public record since the 22nd of June."
Former Park City Education Association president, and current physics teacher at Park City High School, Charlie Matthews agreed with Krenkel. "I regret that board-member Christensen made these statements," he said. "I feel this is a violation of interest-based negotiations.
"We have been trying to respect the process," he said. "The only ones who should be talking to the press are the association teams.
"Nothing I said related to the negotiations," said Christensen. "There is a public copy of this information, and all of it was presented at the board meeting."
A meeting between the school board and the teachers’ union is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 15.
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