Last night’s School Board meeting represented a distinct shift in attitude from the School Board directors in regards to the teacher negotiations. Since the District named their negotiating team last January (Dan Waters, Sue Tiede, Art McDonnell and professional negotiator attorney Jeffrey Sultanik), I have been very vocal in my concern that there was no school board director serving on the negotiating team. I was of the opinion that the residents of TESD elected the school board members to serve them and at least one of them needed to sit at the negotiating table.
Without representation by a school board director, the reporting process had the appearance of a ‘whisper down the lane’. I understand that Sultanik was hired to negotiate at the direction of the School Board, but I think that the Board’s public appearance of ‘hands-off’ to the process, may have added to the strife with the teachers. The information and the updates that the school board receives were not by firsthand attendance at the meetings, the flow of information was from one of the four members of the negotiating team. I am not suggesting that the District intentionally mislead the public through its updates, but I was of the opinion that without a seat at the table, it was possible that subtle nuances that occur in a meeting could be missed in the translation.
But here is some good news for anyone that shares my concerns with the negotiation process. At the end of last night’s meeting, Board president Karen Cruickshank gave a brief update on the status of the teacher contract talks. She explained the District has made another offer to the teachers and offered hope that a resolution could be forthcoming. Not certain what is contained in the latest offer but there was something else … Cruickshank announced that going forward, school board directors would have a seat at the negotiating table. Karen Cruickshank, Pete Motel, Kevin Buraks and Betsy Fadem will join the negotiating team at all future meetings with the teachers union. I believe that this was the right decision for the District, the residents and for the teachers! The last few months have been contentious between the two sides, but I think this latest decision represents an encouraging sign.