Columbia School Board discusses teachers' collective bargaining options

Monday, December 12, 2011 | 10:26 p.m. CST; updated 11:33 a.m. CST, Tuesday, December 13, 2011

*A previous version of the story incorrectly spelled Neil C. Aslin's name.

COLUMBIA — The collective bargaining process for teachers in Columbia seems to have found a direction.

After months of consideration and legal counsel, the Columbia Public School Board approved the first read of two updated policies that would call for teachers to vote on a collective bargaining policy. 

The majority of board members were in favor of the two policies and will vote Jan. 9 to approve them.

The first policy, HH, is an option that would require the district to recognize one or more bargaining representatives to negotiate exclusively with the district.

Policy HA is less specific and provides legal ground rules for districts to negotiate with employee associations. It also outlines election rules for employee groups and recognizes which groups are allowed to collectively bargain, according to a previous Missourian report.

Several members of the public spoke during the collective bargaining discussion, all of whom were against the exclusive representation model that could occur under HH. Smithton Middle School teacher Karen Smith said she knows of other districts where multiple representation — a method in which more than one group can negotiate — works, and urged board members to look at those districts.

Smith also expressed concern about the current wording of the ballot teachers would use to vote for or against a collective bargaining model. Her concern hinged on how one option on the ballot is for "no representation" at all. She suggested that the board should rephrase the option to say "I choose to keep 'meet and confer'" to provide clarity. This system is in place now and lets teachers and administrators negotiate contracts informally.

Board member Michelle Pruitt agreed with Smith's suggestion and Superintendent Chris Belcher said he would take it to the Missouri School Board Association to see if the language can be changed. 

Former district teacher Bill Moyes also spoke out against the two proposed policies, which he said he expected would create problems. Moyes said the two organizations representing teachers had some similar philosophies, and some that were completely different. He said having only one representative would not be a good fit during the collective bargaining process because all voices couldn't be heard.

Moyes said he attended the policy meeting regarding collective bargaining in November, where he said he only saw slightly modified policies from the "cookie cutter" versions provided by the Missouri School Board Association. 

Board member Helen Wade said the multiple representation model probably wouldn't work because "with more than one group representing the same constituents, it is very likely those two representatives don't share the same position and that could make negotiating very problematic."

The board also discussed the possibility of renaming the addition to the District Administration Building. Neil C. Aslin*, a former district superintendent, is a name that has received a lot of support, said Wanda Brown, assistant superintendent for secondary education.

The school board will meet at 7:30 a.m. Dec. 21 at the administration building, 1818 W. Worley St., for a special session.

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