Board eyes OK of Teacher Handbook

By MIKE ANTHONY

The second and final reading of the Lindbergh School District’s 2009-2010 Teacher Handbook was scheduled to be considered earlier this week by the Board of Education.

The second reading of the Teacher Handbook was set to be considered as part of the consent agenda by the Board of Education Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

The Teacher Handbook was at the forefront of negotiations earlier this year between the Lindbergh National Education Association and the Board of Education over a master contract for the 2009-2010 school year.

Negotiations reached an impasse after 90 percent of LNEA members voted March 25 to reject the district’s “final offer” regarding salaries and working conditions for the 2009-2010 school year.

While that offer included an increased financial package over previous ones, it was rejected because the board refused to negotiate terms and conditions of employment, according to the LNEA.

State statute required the school district to furnish contracts to individual teachers by May 15.

To meet that deadline, the board voted April 25 to adopt a teacher salary schedule for the 2009-2010 school year that provided a total compensation package increase of roughly 3.28 percent. The total compensation package approved by the board for the 2009-2010 school year was identical to the board’s “final offer” that was rejected by LNEA members.

The LNEA originally wanted the administration and board to expand the scope of negotiations to include all four sections of the district’s Teacher Handbook.

In the past, only the first section relating to salaries and benefits had been included in binding contracts between the board and the LNEA.

The previous three-year master contract included in the Teacher Handbook between the LNEA and the board expired on June 30. As a result, the LNEA has no binding contract language whatsoever with the board, according to Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Services Rick Francis.

“They have a blank, white piece of paper,” he said, noting the Teacher Handbook no longer is comprised of four sections, but just one section.

In presenting the Teacher Handbook for first reading on July 21, Francis told Board of Education members, “… My report is a classic good news/bad news story line with the bad news being that this past spring was a very rocky time for our school district in terms of coming to an agreement with the teachers. We failed to mutually agree upon contract language between the school district and the LNEA, who represents the teachers of our school district. And therefore, the teachers’ contract that had been in place for 2006 to 2009 expired. It expired on June 30, 2009.

“The good news is the LNEA … and district administration met this summer. We had four meetings and our discussions were extremely cordial and have yielded many good revisions, handbook revisions, that will serve the teachers and this school district well …,” he said.

Regarding the non-binding discussions between LNEA representatives and district officials about the Teacher Handbook this summer, Francis told the Call, “… We made some great changes for teachers, for the district and for students because we got down into some pretty deep philosophical discussions about some issues that we really needed to talk about.

“I think administration and the teachers walked away knowing that we had made some significant improvements … It was great going back to the Lindbergh tradition of talking about what’s good for teaching and learning and kids and working conditions and things like that. It was so much like the old times … it was great.”

LNEA representatives presented district officials with a list of items they would like to be part of a binding agreement with the board. Francis said binding negotiations would occur sometime after the start of school, which began Tuesday.

“… Soon after we get back in school, we will go back to the table, this time with the negotiating lamp on and we will be talking about some of those items that we now have in the handbook possibly becoming binding contract language,” he said. “It’s very, very important to the Board of Education that we have great collaborative relationships with our teachers, but that our Board of Education be in charge of the district.

“It’s exciting. I hope it continues to be as positive as what this summer was and we move this thing forward,” Francis said.

This newspaper’s efforts to contact Diane O’Leary, LNEA co-president, were unsuccessful before press time.