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Problem statements finalized, solutions developed in Dickinson teacher negotiations

Representatives from the Dickinson Education Association and Dickinson Public School teacher negotiation teams met Tuesday afternoon for the second time in six days to review problem statements hashed out at their previous meeting.

The two parties continued those discussions and identified potential solutions to each of their concerns during the 90-minute session at the Central Administration Office.

They finalized a list of eight problems to be discussed during the negotiation process, which included salary, outside contracted hour compensation, ways to simplify the negotiation process, personal leave time, flexibility of professional development, adjusting the lower half of the salary schedule, revisiting the grievance procedure and addressing summer school compensation.

The parties touched on several of the topics during the meeting, and brainstormed potential solutions for two of the topics — notably hours spent outside the contracted day and extending personal leave time from six to eight days.

DEA negotiator and teacher James Fahy asked the board if there would be additional nights that teachers would be mandated to attend. The question was raised after approximately 60 teachers filed grievances against the board in December regarding a curriculum night, which was mandatory to attend, but for which teachers were not compensated.

"The curriculum night is mandated in the strategic plan of the school district and if it's not going to be implemented, than it needs to be removed from the plan," Superintendent Doug Sullivan said. "The school board does have the authority to say that there will not be a curriculum night."

Sullivan said the two parties need to discuss if the night is important for parents.

"We want parents to be able to meet with teachers and learn about the curriculum," DPS negotiator and school board vice president Kris Fehr said.

Solutions the two parties agreed on included: making the night voluntary, extending the contract day, revising the contract language, compensating those hours or scheduling such events within already-contracted hours.

Those resolutions were whittled down, but not decided upon.

The group also discussed extending personal leave time from six to eight days.

"We think, with the exception to the potential increases in the cost of subs, that an increase to eight (days) would not have an overall big impact on the district," Fahy said.

Assistant Superintendent Vince Reep said the cost of substitute teachers is $135 a day.

Fehr and board member Jason Hanson agreed a cumulative of eight days of leave time could affect classroom learning, though it would take a teacher four years to acquire that time.

"My only problem with that is a teacher could be out of the classroom for eight days," Fehr said. "That's a long time. I am concerned that it is going to affect classroom learning when you are gone that many days"

DEA and DPS negotiators agreed solutions could include increasing personal leave time while limiting consecutive usage, providing eight days with no contingencies, or keeping personal leave time as it is.

Both parties agreed that more data should be collected on how many teachers accumulate leave time and use it. Others wanted numbers of how many teachers don't use all the days, and opt for compensation instead. The groups agreed that additional data would help the decision-making process.

A meeting to continue working through the process is scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5. The location of the meeting has not been determined, as DPS board members believe an increased number of teachers will begin attending meetings as the progress continues and the subject of salaries is brought up at length.