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Teacher Bargaining, April 12, 2023

Below are thorough and extensive notes from our bargaining meeting. Thank you to Joanne Didriksen and Jonna Schwartz for capturing the conversations as well as participating in the discussions! Please send any questions you may have to me aat jshawnhea@gmail.com or jshawn@helenaschools.org


Bargaining Meeting: April 12, 2023

Roll Call: HPS: Josh McKay, Brian Cummings, Keri Mizell, Janelle Mickelson, Jill Nyman, Nick Radley, Cal Boyle, Brett Zanto, Winn Randall. HEA: Jane Shawn, Kelly Elder, Erika McMillin, Anna Alger, Paul Phillips, Adam Clinch, Jonna Schwartz, Joanne Didriksen. 

8:00 Reviewed Norms, Reviewed time limits for article discussions

8:15 Class 4 Concept Discussion

HPS: Overview of current practice and plans for change. Review history and definitions.

2.4 A:

HPS: Old language for definition of lane movement. Main intention of Class 4 is to hire teachers, predominately in trades, that have industry experience and not BA. The inclusion of this in our CBA was to allow for movement on the salary scale in a manner that is available to those without traditional paths—NBC, MA. OPI awards these Class 4 license and HPS has no control over how these licenses are awarded and no review of the process for lane movement.

HPS: We need to be thoughtful about how Class 4 License creates movement on our salary matrix to include a review process that can be managed by the district. There are employee groups who will need this alternate pathway for lane advancement. HPS wants to remain consistent in how the process for certification leads to lane movement and maintain standards that reflect teacher quality as a result of certification.

HEA: Decision should be twofold: we have employees who were hired with Class 4 License and those who were hired with Class 1 or 2 who have sought Class 4 license.

HPS: If an employee has a BA and has the opportunity to seek lane movement in traditional pathway, they should not have the option to advance through Class 4 license. This should be reserved for only those who have no other option for advancement. This approach is the most equitable for all employees.

HPS/HEA: Issue is in the room and we will continue to discuss.

HEA: Changing this pathway for all employees as it is now is moving backwards and these changes will be a huge give for our members.

New Language for PIR Days

HEA: Proposed that 7 PIR days reflect current practice, which is 4 days District directed (2 orientation and 2 records) and 3 teacher choice. Is our proposal being rejected?

HPS: No. We are countering to have the MOU that is currently in place for our new teachers. 5 District directed days (2 orientation, 2 records, and 1 District and/or building focused) and 2 teacher choice days. Also, removed the time limit of 60 days to return award of PIR hours.

HEA: (stated this MOU has expired) What will the extra District directed day to be used for?

HPS: PIR related to District designated training for the benefit of what we need district wide. New curriculum, Active Shooter Training, PLC focus, etc.

HEA: How will the timing of this District directed day happen? When the District chooses? How will HPS make certain that the PIR is valuable for all employee groups? Shared an example of specialists. How will this be functional for all and accommodate the timing restrictions and District Approved Calendar?

HPS: There are ways to work this in for the future. Our calendar is already in place. It may include both District wide training and building level training, so it helps all groups.

HPS/HEA: tabled. We will work on this language at our next meeting.

2.6 PCAP Language changes.

HEA: Sunset the language that does not apply any longer and rewrite some to include dates for movement consistent with other date notification.

A, B, C will sunset and the following changes will be made to rewrite these areas:

Paragraph D addresses those who are on PCAP for the rest of their tenure.

Paragraph E addresses those who are frozen with the addition for teachers to continue to use their educational credits to move over on the pay scale.

Discussion--

HPS: We would like to sunset the ability to use the educational credits to move.

HEA: We need to continue to honor the ability for those in this group to move lanes using these educational credits.

HEA: What is the concern for continuing to offer educational credits for movement?

HPS: Tracking of these credits, the potential for movement for planning purposes. Also, a responsible ending to this transition.

HPS: management would like to take this back to the team so we can understand how not sunsetting the use of educational credits may impact future budget planning.

HPS/HEA: tabled until next meeting.

2.9 Retirement Benefits

HEA: Talked about “good standing” and HPS/HEA defined the term. Then HPS changed the term to “not under review for discipline with cause”. Why was the change made?

HPS: How do you measure “good standing” by that definition?

HEA: The change in this phrasing seems very punitive and could alone result in members voting no on this contract.

HPS: How do you define successful?

HEA: Can we just take out the word “successful”? “Good standing requires completion of your teaching duties as outlined in your contract.”

HEA: Called caucus: returned 10:00

HEA: After caucusing our decisions are:

Class 4: would like to gather a small group HEA/HPS and continue conversation to bring back to larger group.

2.5: HPS proposal for PIR days. HEA is not in agreement with the proposal for changing 1 PIR day to District Directed

PCAP Proposal: HPS will be getting more information on fiscal impact. HEA does want the educational credits for lane movement to remain.

Retirement Benefit: HEA would like to keep the language “good standing” and not the language proposed. HEA accepts the language change from consecutive to accumulative.

HPS: We are in agreement with HEA in keeping “Good standing requires completion of your teaching duties as outlined in your contract.” and changing consecutive to accumulative.

Tentative Agreement:

Retirement Benefit language: keep “Good standing requires completion of your teaching duties as outlined in your contract.” and changing consecutive to accumulative.

3.1: Teacher Discipline

HEA: We have an interest in having sunset dates on discipline files remaining in an employee file. Specifically the “verbal” warning, which is written and held in the employee “working file”. Discipline should come out of employee files consistent with/when a behavior is corrected and is no longer evidence of pattern of behavior.

HPS: The other perspective is that keeping all discipline records. Even though behavior is corrected a cumulative file maintains evidence that the employee was aware of the expectations. This may later be used for just cause if pattern returns.

HPS: What are we considering a “pattern”? Removing records prevents Administration from recognizing a pattern of behavior and prevents knowledge of the past patterns of a teacher under their supervision.

HEA: We do need to define pattern.

HPS: Management needs the ability to consider the egregiousness of the behavior, as well as the documentation of employee awareness of standards and expectations defined by contract and Board policy.

HEA: Clarification is needed. HEA is talking about the written record of a “verbal” warning.

HPS: There are two pieces here: Should verbal reprimands be in an employee file? Should reprimands have a sunset date?

HEA/HPS: conversation about past practice to define what is the expectation of verbal reprimand that has been kept in writing. Also, the difference between “working file” and “accumulative employee personnel file”

HPS: Administration practice is not to request employee file unless dealing with a discipline issue that requires review of past practice or “pattern”.

HEA: Is it HPS position that there should never be a sunset date on any discipline issue?

HPS: That is the legal position, not HPS.

HPS: Personnel files are used to inform Administration in an effort to help employee improve behavior and achieve growth. It is also used to document employee awareness of standards and expectations.

HPS: Can we put some boundaries on how long files are kept in an employee “working file”? For example, by standards of the 3-year evaluation cycle?

HPS: We will need to take this language back and add clarity to the difference between “working file” and “verbal reprimand” as well as review the legal requirements of keeping discipline files.

HEA: There have been many examples of employees being able to expunge their personnel file and others who have not had this ability. This is an equitability issue.

We need to move on.

HPS: We will take back to management and have conversation.

HPS/HEA: tabled until next meeting.

3.3 Pertinent Information:

HEA: We want language in the contract that guarantees the inclusion of sharing information with HEA that allows the Union to conduct its business efficiently.

HPS: We just have questions about some of the terms. Is “real-time” the correct term? Can we find another term? We are cleaning up our processes for hiring and still working through systems changes. We are in agreement with adding this section but need to work in determining what “real time basis”

Tentative Agreement: Accepted addition of “Pertinent Agreement” with clarification of “real time” language.

3.4 New Teacher Orientation addition. Tentative Agreement

3.5 Boundary Expectations

HPS: will provide a new procedure to review this practice prior to the end of the year.

3.6 SAAC

HPS: We cannot agree to the proposal because we cannot guarantee staffing for this program.

HEA: We are just asking that employees are given priority over families. Why not agree to priority?

HPS: Our employees may have more flexibility than our families. Administration will do the best we can to accommodate teachers while prioritizing our families with high need.

HPS: Does not agree as written but will get more information.

3.7 Safety

HEA: we added this clause literally word for word from what is in the Para-Educator CBA

HPS: In agreement with all other terms but how do we define “conditions which are unsafe”?

HEA: We agree that this term is vague and difficult to define. We are aware that it needs clarification. Our members asked for it.

HEA: look for language that will help us clarify and define “endanger” and clean up this language.

HEA will bring language change/suggestion for this section to the next meeting.

4.1-4.6 Professional Growth

HPS: has proposed removing entire sections due to budget constraints

HEA: We do not want to permanently remove entire sections because of temporary budget constraints. We would have to re-bargain to get all of these sections back once budget constraints are no longer needed.

HPS: Revise our position. We would like to temporarily suspend these sections through the next CBA cycle 2023-2025.

HEA: We will need to have conversations about these sections now that HPS has changed their position. We will visit about a temporary suspension (likely a MOU) and come back to the group.

HEA: Review a possible MOU rather than removal of this section. Return to the next meeting with proposal.

Lunch 11:30-12:30

5.2 Sick Leave and Personal Leave

HEA: For the whole article. Defined language of family as “chosen family” for purposes of this entire article. Chosen family shall mean those people whom a person holds a deep bond or connection with.

HPS: We appreciate your definition, but we have not seen this language in any other employee sick leave agreement. Can you explain your use of this term?

HEA: Shared examples.

HPS: How do we apply bumpers to quantify who we define as family?

HEA: There is not a tidy definition of family in today’s world.

HEA: We have bumpers on our sick leave through limiting these days and a process in place when request is for more than 4 days. Are we just talking about bereavement or just sick days? Or both?

HPS: This is an area where management can agree and can make decisions using administrative discretion.

HEA: Is there abuse in sick leave and why are we not dealing with this through disciplinary channels?

HPS: We need to put some reins on bereavement to maintain control over the potential for abusing this leave that is funded by the district and not through teacher leave.

HPS: We understand you need clarity. Provision is needed for Administration to make a judgement in special circumstances.

HPS: We can include chosen family with sick leave or personal leave. Need to find limit for emergency/bereavement leave for fiscal management and budget projections.

HEA: The additional 5 days at Administration discretion has historically been included because of possible travel needed.

HPS: The cost for bereavement leave is difficult to project. We need a way to manage this expenditure. Language changes could create more use of this emergency leave as it relates to bereavement, especially during particular times of an employee's life.

HPS: The philosophical dilemma is that we are not expanding our family members, we are just renaming family. Renaming redefines and should not expand.

HEA: We have to rely on leadership if part of the contract is being abused rather than include or excluding language in CBA. This conversation is a perfect example.

HPS: We have clarity on chosen family and need to talk further on fiscal implication this has on emergency/ bereavement leave.

HEA: HPS has sticken (The administration shall make the final decision whether the illness in the family falls within this category.) What is the reason for this?

HPS: There are times when the “category” makes it difficult for administration to decide.

HEA: What problem are we solving with the HPS addition of a doctor’s verification necessary for each sick leave use?

HPS: To help limit abuse of sick leave.

HEA: Can we manage sick leave abuse differently? As a disciplinary issue? If this is a widespread problem, we need to do something about this on a case-to-case basis.

HPS: Administration is reluctant to address on an individual basis when employees are using sick leave for mental health days. Reasons for sick leave are most often unknown to Administration. Unless a pattern appears, there is no easy way to approach staff regarding potential misuse of sick leave.

HEA: Abuse of sick leave, including mental health days, is a discipline issue. We are not in agreement with the inclusion of doctor’s verification after discussion for the HPS reasoning to include it.

HPS: Added new language for FLMA to include four weeks of unpaid leave upon approval.

HEA: We already have the ability to take leave through our leave of absence process (5.5). LOA does not have to be a whole year. However, LOA does not apply to nontenured teachers.

HEA: Let’s include the phrase nontenure teachers in the beginning of the paragraph to keep it from being redundant with LOA.

HPS: There is some language that makes this new section different from LOA. We suggest HEA takes a look at these differences before reaching a decision. When we wrote the new FMLA language, we did not use the LOA language.

HEA: We do not have issue with this language change nor its comparison with LOA language. Can we accept this paragraph as a TA?

HPS: The addition of the FLMA language/leave is a tentative agreement. Where we will include it in the CBA is still under consideration.

HPS: New language proposed for leave without pay that has not been approved.

HEA: This language is so punitive. Why are we addressing leave abuse in our CBA?

HEA: There are multiple parts in the language in this paragraph that are problematic. Many of these conflict with our LOA language.

HPS: We do not have any language that clarifies leave without pay circumstances. The concept behind this is to take care of the abuse of leave and leave without pay.

HEA: The widespread abuse of leave is a procedural issue that HPS must figure out. This should not be in the CBA. Even in our CBA under discipline there are no instances listing specific abuses that require discipline such as sick leave abuse. We are not in agreement.

HPS: The instance of including this is to follow up with just cause and the performance management process. We will withdraw this paragraph and the sentence regarding a doctor’s notice for verification of sick leave.

Tentative Agreement: Withdraw paragraph and the sentence regarding doctor’s notification for verification of sick leave.

Sick Leave Continued:

HPS: proposed adding “continuous” and “as a teacher” to the paragraph regarding payment of sick leave at termination of employment or retirement.

HEA: is in agreement.

Tentative Agreement:

Add “continuous” and “as a teacher” to the paragraph regarding payment of sick leave at termination of employment or retirement.

Leave Donations

HPS: Proposes adding language that will allow two parents employed by HPS to donate leave to each other for purposes of baby bonding. HPS has not yet discussed HEA's proposal to expand a qualifying FMLA event. We will discuss and do cost analysis.

HEA: We recommend sick leave donations are expanded to include no limitations apply to extenuating circumstances when leave is needed for family member. Tie this to FMLA.

HPS: This seems promising as it is tied to FMLA. We will take this proposal back to our group and discuss-return with a decision.

2:30—sick leave discussion, continued

HPS: wants to add that teachers preserve seniority when sick leave is exhausted and teacher takes leave without pay as long as the medical issue is serious/life-threatening, not if teacher misses work for a variety of reasons multiple times throughout the year.

HEA: If a teacher exhausts leave by December for a serious illness and then gets the flu in January, will the teacher lose seniority if they take leave without pay?

HPS: language is more about people who happen to be out a lot of time, not necessarily for an extended illness.

HEA: Again, this seems like an issue that would be handled through the disciplinary process. The current language is in contradiction to Leave of Absence language—we accrue seniority for 20 days. The language in this section says that you can continue to accrue seniority beyond the twenty days.

HPS: “release to work” language addition is just to make sure the teacher is cleared by a medical professional.

HEA: for clarification, can we write a clarifying sentence that says under some circumstances, you may need a release note from a medical professional to return (I.e., you were told by a medical professional you needed to be out of work.)

HEA: Can we take out sentences that are in opposition to leave of absence (the ones that regard seniority)?

HPS will create a new draft statement regarding these affected paragraphs.

Discretionary Leave Discussion

HEA wants to delete discretionary leave from sick and personal leave section and add new language under Article 5. HEA defined discretionary leave, how long it could be enacted, what it was for, who can cover, whom the teacher must notify, etc. HEA removed language that discretionary leave is approved by the building administrator to ensure equity.

HPS countered with its own language, including admin approval on rare occasions. HPS wants administrative authority because the teacher might think they have coverage, but in fact create a domino effect.

HEA asks if informing the building admin. of the arrangements doesn’t prevent the domino effect?

HPS believes proposed language (“notify”) doesn’t allow admin to say no and also that running an errand could allow employees to essentially double dip. HPS believes that some teachers, especially new teachers, feel compelled to say yes to covering.

HPS also doesn't like the language that paras can’t cover. HEA explains that paras can’t agree to leave their assignment to cover when asked by a teacher.

HPS believes that for safety and security the decision has to run through admin.

HEA suggests adding that paras. Can't be asked by the teacher to cover but can be asked by the admin.

HEA favors “notify” vs. “ask permission” to account for building-to-building inequity. Some buildings are very flexible vs. other buildings.

HPS wants to grant discretionary leave and wants to know where employees physically are (for safety and operations). HPS recognizes that certain buildings feel like they are never granted leave.

HPS suggests improving upon practice rather than adding language.

HEA explains that one of the reasons we have the contract is because of administrative turnover. For this particular article, we had a central office admin. who told building admin. not to grant discretionary leave.

HPS mentions clarifying that discretionary leave coverage is not for pay.

Jane will revise proposed language to reflect the philosophy that the district supports discretionary leave and will work to implement it for staff.

Legislative Leave Discussion

HPS is in agreement with the proposal but wants to add that “leg. leave will not exceed 180 days per year.”

HEA clarifies the meaning of “per year” (calendar year or school year).

HEA clarifies that the proposed paragraphs are part of an MOU written this year for a teacher member who was elected to the legislature as this situation had never previously come about.

HPS and HEA will define the meaning of “year.”

Jury Duty and Civic Leave Discussion

Not in the current contract, but in para educator contract.

HEA explains that the intent is that if a teacher is subpoenaed, they are granted leave. With language creation, teachers won’t be granted leave for a subpoena that directly involves them (I.e., a custody case, divorce proceeding, etc.).

HEA and HPS are in agreement with language with a bit of clean up.

Military Leave Discussion

HEA wants this language included but wants to keep it general since rules and legal language changes.

This is also from the para. agreement.

HEA and HPS are in agreement but will check MCA language to be in accordance.

Next Steps:


  • Clean-up language on some TA

  • 2.6, 5, 7

  • HEA: Bringing something back for PD section

  • Compensation


Next Meeting: April 20, 2023—Language

Next Meeting: April 27, 2023—Compensation


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