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Cancellations between the Dickinson School Board and the Dickinson Education Administration lead to unresolved issue

Ground rules for teacher negotiations between the Dickinson Public School Board and the Dickinson Education Administration have been set but not signed due to meeting delays, school board President Kris Fehr said in an email June 25.

The two parties met June 5 to hammer out ground rules in an attempt to move forward with negotiations after a district court ruling went in favor of petitions submitted by the DEA.

At that meeting, school board negotiators agreed to move forward with those petitions, under the condition that they have the authority to write and enforce board policy under governance.

Fehr said ground rules were set to be finalized during a June 15 meeting but that never took place due to a cancellation request by DEA negotiators.

“There were personal/family conflicts with three members of the team,” DEA lead negotiator Brian Woehl said in an email to The Press on June 15.

In lieu of the canceled meeting, the board asked DEA negotiators to provide alternative dates, but said it never received a response.

“We have attempted to schedule the next negotiations meeting, but it appears that we do not have your cooperation,” Fehr said in an email to the DEA.

Woehl said Friday evening that the DEA is not intending to stall the negotiation process, rather arranging summer schedules of a five-person team has been difficult.

“The whole team is scattered around,” he said.

DEA President Lyle Smith said if the case hadn’t been taken to court, the two parties wouldn’t have been in a time crunch in the first place.

“We would have been negotiating during the school year if we hadn’t taken this to court,” Smith said. “Now it’s summer and schedules are tough.”

And while that may be, Fehr said delaying negotiations will result in insufficient time to reach an agreement for 2015-16 teacher contracts.

“The negotiations process must be moved along more quickly,” Fehr said.

According to a section in the North Dakota Century Code, the school board and the DEA need to meet at reasonable times and negotiate in good faith. A court ruling also requires that the negotiators meet with the purpose of formulating an agreement for the upcoming school year.

Woehl said there is no set date for when contracts need to be drawn up, but he would like to see it before the start of the new school year.

He said the entire negotiating team will likely be available at the end of July or early August, when he would like to see negotiations move forward.

Once the entire team is reassembled, he said, it is possible there will be marathon sessions to come to an agreement.

Though a date for the meeting has not been set, finalizing ground rules and writing problem statements are items that will be discussed.