Flagstaff Unified School District Board and the Flagstaff Education Association are still trying to hash out an agreement that would let the association represent the district’s teachers.
According to a proposed agreement presented to the FUSD Board last week, FEA wants the ability to appoint the certified members of the Negotiations Committee and a seat on all other committees that deal with the district’s professional staff. The district’s certified employees include teachers, speech therapists, nurses, etc.
The ability to appoint all certified members of the Negotiations Committee would be contingent on FEA getting approval from at least 30 percent of the professional staff representatives on the Voice Committee each year.
The Voice Committee is made up of two representatives from each school in the district, one from the certified employees, such as teachers and one from the classified employees, such as janitors and groundkeepers and one from each non-school building, such as the maintenance building.
The request is not much different from what other teachers unions in the state have in their agreements with their school district boards.
For example, the Tucson Education Associations’ agreement with Tucson Unified School District, requires TUSD to give the union any information on committees that may be formed to make recommendations which may impact teachers’ employment and/or benefits. It also spells out how seats on three standing committees the district currently has will be split, with four members being appointed by the TEA president and four by the district superintendent. The committees also have to report their findings to both the superintendent and TEA.
The Mesa Education Association’s agreement with Mesa Unified School District, requires that the association recommend the names of individuals it wants to serve on district committees that effect teachers within 20 days of the names being requested by the superintendent. Half of each committee’s membership will be selected by the association and half by the superintendent, unless otherwise spelled out in the agreement. For example, the Employment Benefits Advisory Committee is made up of three employees appointed by the association, three by the Mesa Education Support Personnel Association, three by the Mesa Association of School Administrators and three by the Mesa Association of Classified Supervisors and assistant superintendent for human resources.
FEA President Derek Born said the association’s agreement is based loosely off of other district’s agreements and nearly identical to the agreement FEA had with FUSD about three years ago.
The FUSD Board let a 20-year agreement with FEA expire at the end of the 2014/2015 school year supposedly because the board at that time felt that the association didn’t adequately represent all of the district’s employees because its membership was so low, about 40 percent of FUSD employees. The cost of annual dues may be part of the reason why membership is so low. Annual dues for FEA are about $650. That agreement allowed FEA to negotiate salary and working conditions on behalf of district employees with the board. Two committees, a Voice and a Negotiation Committee, were created to take the place of the agreement.
Born said the association was surprised by the claim three years ago, because they always felt that they represented the needs of all teachers in the district, not just those who had an association membership. The membership of the association is still about 40 percent of the teachers in the district, he said.
The association sends out a survey each year to all district staff to ask what is important to them and what improvements they would like to see and then incorporates that in a master list. The master list is pared down to a few priorities each year and then sent back out to teachers and staff to for more recommendations before being finalized.
For example, one year, the association looked at the possibility of requesting paid leave for new parents, but after looking at how much it would cost the district and staff, the association decided against pushing for it. Born said the association hasn’t started its process of defining its priorities for this year yet. Their main focus for the last few years has been trying to reinstate or create a new agreement with the board.
“We’ve always had good support from all of the teachers in the district,” Born said.
The Association also wanted the ability to talk with staff, administrators and board members about potential problems in the district. It also wanted a seat on the district’s Voice, Negotiations and Professional Growth committees and the right to attend any regular meetings with the superintendent or director of human resources. The association also wanted the ability to appoint or assist in appointing professional staff to serve on other district committees that may affect professional staff in the district.
The association also wanted access to district buildings, as long as it didn’t interfere with the school day, so the group could hold meetings and distribute material to teachers and its members. They also wanted to be able to meet with the district superintendent twice a month to discuss problems.
In return, FEA would keep district staff up to date on FUSD policies and procedures and help with new employee orientation. The association can also help the district retain teachers and staff by finding out what their needs are, communicating that to the board and negotiating a solution. Other teacher unions in the state have similar language, including MEA and TEA.
All of this helps FEA communicate and effectively represent its members, teachers and staff, Born said. Otherwise, the association would have to wait until the end of the school day to contact members or staff at home or contact them through non-work related email addresses, instead of asking them a question over lunch in the teacher’s lounge or on the playground.
Board member Kara Kelty said last week that she would like to see a better dialog with the district’s teachers whether it was through the district’s Voice Committee or FEA. But she felt that FEA’s agreement fell a bit short and she was concerned about legal issues with the agreement that were raised by the district’s attorney. Kelty did not describe the legal issues.
She recommended that the board and FEA start from scratch and have FEA meet with the district’s attorney to craft something that would address the needs of both organizations and meet legal standards. The other board members agreed.
Born said the association looks forward to getting together with FUSD board members to answer whatever questions they have on the agreement and working with them to create something that can be beneficial to both.