District bargaining continues

New negotiation method improves communication

— The Steamboat Springs School District's collaborative bargaining team is making progress.

Although no specific results have come from the meetings that will determine next year's employment policies -- including salaries and benefits -- for district teachers and staff, several of the team's 15 members said they are happy with the status of the discussions.

"In years past, it's always been a knockdown, drag-out, last-minute sort of thing to get it done, but this year, it's moving along well," said Steve Schibline, a district bus driver and head custodian at Steamboat Springs Middle School. Schibline has been involved in the bargaining process for more than 10 years.

"I just feel a lot better than I have in a long time about this process," he said.

The team this year is using a discussion method called interest-based bargaining. The step-by-step method allows input from each participant and promotes discussion about goals, obstacles and solutions.

The team met for 4 1/2 Monday and Tuesday. The meetings are closed to the public, but the team issued a statement about its progress. The document, released by Superintendent Donna Howell, Schibline, and Soda Creek Elementary School teacher Sharon Clementson reads: "A subcommittee of the (bargaining) team presented several suggestions related to the enhancement of trust in the district. One of the suggestions involved a presentation related to understanding the process of change. The team received a presentation that concentrated on understanding the change process and ways to provide support to each other through change as we work toward improving the culture of the district.

"The subcommittee also suggested that the team schedule presentations to respective groups. The team is meeting on Thursday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. After the Thursday meeting, presentations will be scheduled with respective groups to provide an update on the team's progress. The team also worked on the issues of extra duty and activity pay, and insurance. The school district is in the process of going out for competitive bids on insurance.

"All members of the team continue to feel positive about the process and the progress made to date. Any staff member who would like to share thoughts should contact one of the team members."

Schibline said more meetings will be needed after Thursday.

"I think our goal is to be able to have something put together and agreed upon by April or May," he said. "This year, target dates and agreements should all be reached on time."

In recent years, the district has used a collaborative bargaining approach. Last year, the collaborative bargaining team was unable to agree on a package until after the beginning of the school year -- several months after its stated deadline.

-- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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