School Board getting ready for union talks

Friday, June 12, 2009

Two-thirds of the school board's nine members met in closed executive session Tuesday to decide how to direct their team when it resumes negotiations with the Marshall County Education Association today. Director of schools Stan Curtis, who was named to head the negotiating team after the resignation of Craig Michael, was the only non-board member present.

The board of education and the MCEA signed a three-year contract earlier this year, and that contract provides for annual negotiation of salary, wages, and insurance. By mutual agreement, the two bodies can re-open, discuss and negotiate any other article of the contract.

At the school board's regular monthly meeting on May 21, a motion proposing to re-open negotiations with MCEA on Article 10, dealing with fair treatment and just cause, was carried 6 to 2. This followed the disclosure that a popular teacher, Misty Reese, had not been re-hired for the coming school year, and that Curtis refused to give any reasons for this decision.

"I have no idea if MCEA would want to re-open it," said Michael at the May meeting.

Michael, one of the board members present at the executive session, was unable to reveal specifics of the closed meeting, but characterized it as "quite spirited" and "interactive," with wide-ranging, good discussion. It lasted longer than the allotted time, cutting in to the budget committee meeting that was supposed to follow at 7 p.m.

The budget committee thought they had to present a budget for the 2009-2010 school year to the county commission by June 30, the end of the fiscal year.

At the county commission's education committee meeting Monday, however, it was announced that the commission would meet the school board on July 16 to see the new budget. This gives budget director Janet Wiles time to actually close the books for the 2008-2009 school year so that all the final numbers are available for comparison.

With this extension of deadline, the budget committee took it easy Tuesday night.

"We didn't get into much at all," said Michael.

Wiles told the education committee that there had been savings and "we're less short than we were last year." She added, "In a couple of years we will be in trouble without the stimulus money unless the economy comes back or we get other grants. We've really been working hard this year to cut expenses."

"Hopefully things will start to look a lot better next year," said committee chairman Larry McKnight optimistically.

McKnight also inquired about the rollout of computer technology into the schools. Curtis told the committee that they were behind schedule, but still keeping to the budget. Technology supervisor Suzanne Ingram, who has been in charge of this project, was expected to address the school board at their meeting last night on the subject of the Edulog software, which is ready to use for efficiently planning school bus routes this year.

The board members who were not present at the Tuesday meeting were Dee Dee Owens, Curt Denton, and Todd Tietgens. Tietgens, along with Kristen Gold, cast a "no" vote on the motion to re-open Article 10.