The North Platte school board declined Monday to compromise with teachers whose workdays have been reduced for the coming school year.The controversy started in March, when administrators altered the contracts for counselors, psychologists and industrial arts teachers, cutting their workdays -- and salaries.
The staff members said they had no opportunity to talk to administrators about how the changes would affect their students, so nine of 13 affected staff members exercised their right to an appeal before the school board.
On May 15, the hearing was held, and both sides presented their case.
The hearing lasted seven hours. After deliberating another hour, the board voted 5-1 to uphold the reductions.
During testimony, the staff members said they needed the extra days -- from 5 to 15 depending on the position -- to do their jobs properly.
The staff members also said the administration violated state law by not notifying the bargaining agent (the teachers’ union -- the North Platte Education Association) that the reductions were imminent.
On the other hand, administrators said cuts were necessary due to revenue shortfalls. They offered the staff members a deal – to work the extra days if their building principal approved, and to be paid by the day.
Associate Superintendent Tami Eshleman said the cuts would provide flexibility, force better communication between the staff and building administrators, and develop more accountability.
Eshleman said the staff and their administrators could decide if and how much of the cuts would be necessary.
After the decision, the staff members could have appealed to district court, but instead drafted a compromise agreement and proposed it to the administration.
That proposal came before the board Monday.
It would have set up a meeting of staff members and the school board within four days to forge an agreement on the amount of service that is needed.
But that didn’t fly with the school board.
When the board came out of the closed session to vote, member Matt Pederson said the board made a decision after the hearing in May, and to change it would potentially cause more confusion.
Board members Jo Ann Lundgreen and Skip Altig said the proper place to make such changes would be in the master agreement between the district and the union, not in an addendum to a few contracts.
Michelle Strickland, the president of the NPEA, told the Bulletin after the meeting that the staff members need those extra days to do their jobs.
Strickland said the staffers have other options, but did not specify further.