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School board sends collective bargaining policies back to committee

Monday, October 10, 2011 | 11:24 p.m. CDT; updated 12:16 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, October 11, 2011

*Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Columbia School Board must choose between two proposed collective bargaining policies. Both policies will remain under consideration.

COLUMBIA — Columbia School Board members decided by a vote of 6-1 to send two *proposed collective bargaining policies back to the board's policy committee for further consideration. 

The Missouri School Boards' Association has created multiple policies that state school districts can choose from in order to negotiate with their employees. These policies are guidelines to help districts create an effective collective bargaining process.

In other business

The school board amended its "Hazing and Bullying" policy by implementing an annual 450 minutes of instruction for sixth, seventh and eighth grade students in the district. The time will be spent teaching the students the district’s hazing and bullying policies in order to promote a safe learning environment. The policy will be "fully functional" by the beginning of the 2013 school year, Superintendent Chris Belcher said.

Sally Beth Lyon, chief academic officer, presented a new technology plan  that was approved unanimously by the board. She said the plan would provide students with multiple tools to facilitate classroom learning and research. Teachers would have the ability to share documents in their creation of lesson plans and analyze data as they make instructional decisions. 



The first policy, called HH, explains how employees would request either an exclusive representative, such as a teachers association, to collectively bargain with administrators, or it would let multiple representatives collectively bargain with those administrators. 

The second policy, HA, provides legal ground rules for districts to negotiate with employee associations. This policy outlines election rules for employee groups and recognizes which groups are allowed to collectively bargain.

Board member Jonathan Sessions made the motion to send both policies back to the policy committee for review.

"My reasoning for making this motion is purely that I think we have a lot of confusion, and the board received an email today from someone that truly did not understand what was going on," he said.  "We can do this better."

Sessions said Columbia could have a custom policy, rather than one of the two sample options that covers 520 of the state's districts. 

Board member Michelle Pruitt agreed and said that the motion was "not a bad idea."

"It's very important we get the process correct on this particular policy," she said. "We have to make sure our process is the best for the district." 

Superintendent Chris Belcher said that if the motion did pass, he would ask for permission to seek outside legal counsel that specializes in creating policy exclusive to individual districts in Missouri. 

He said the Missouri School Boards' Association has always said these policies do not constitute something that you should just adopt, they are only frameworks to start discussion. 

Belcher said he applauded the board for being so considerate of the influence they have received from both sides of the issue.

"Certainly you want to please everybody, and this will give us some more time to see if we can get closer to that goal," he said.

Board member Christine King supported the motion. She said there are many community voices that need to be heard.

Tom Rose was the only board member to oppose reviewing the plans further. 

"Should we decide to send this back to policy committee for revision I believe and hope that most of the policy as written will remain, and that only a few points will be changed to come to a consensus if we can't," he said. 

Rose said after the meeting that he thinks that even with legal counsel the board will still have to make a difficult choice. 

"We are still going to have make a hard decision that not everyone is going to agree with," Rose said. 

The next policy committee meeting will be at 4:30 p.m., Oct. 31 at the district administration building. The committee meets on the last Monday of every month.


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