Some Progress

October 30, 2008

Thanks to your survey voting, your bargaining team worked from a position of strength, knowing our members were supporting our efforts to achieve a fair, reasonable settlement of wages and insurance benefits. The two sides are closer now than at any point since negotiations began in July.

As you already know, some items we brought to the table have already failed. Most notably, the change in contract language regarding snow days. Our existing language — that cancellations after the first two will be made up at the end of the year — is still in place, and will be.

Your bargaining team, Nicole B, Carol B, Gaye A, Rich H and Tim S, are hoping for a final resolution on a settlement in the coming weeks. Without the input from all of you who expressed your thoughts and ideas, I don’t think we would be in this position.

I’m hoping the next entry on this page will be details of an agreement that you can review prior to a ratification vote.

There are other issues we are still working on. The current calendar is quite experimental, as our elementary members will soon see when conferences begin shortly. As the school year progresses, the association will be evaluating this attempt to reduce half days and align the calendar between grade levels.

There are also changes coming to 403B plans. These changes are required by recent IRS regulations, and since 403B plans are employee benefits, the changes are items for negotiations also.

We also continue to talk with district administration about various issues, ranging from schedule B problems to leave time to required attendance at “after hours” meetings and IEP’s.

Please continue showing this community your professionalism, your dedication to your students, your unity for the association, and your awareness of your rights. We are a highly skilled group of educators, and I don’t think the district realizes how lucky they are to have each one of us working here.


Bargaining Survey

October 24, 2008

As you know, Wednesday is our 2nd attempt at mediation with the district.  After many proposals, our positions seem to still be different about what the district can afford.  What we need from you is to know how far you want us to take this.

Please click on Comments to give your feedback to these options:

1. Settle the contract and take what we can get.
2. Wait (if necessary) and go to next step (mediation again, fact finding, or re-bargaining).

School Board October 20

October 21, 2008

Here are the “highlights” of the October 20 meeting of the PSD Board of Education, as filtered through the lens of the PEA.

1. A letter praising North Elementary was referenced by the Board, although not read aloud. Good going North — for something you have done!

2. The Board accepted the 07-08 audit report from Plante and Moran. Matt made sure he asked the representatives from P & M what type of fund balance a school should have. The rep (to his credit) danced around the answer. He cited MSBO guidelines that suggest 15-20% and he cited the State of Michigan that maintains 10%. Typical pre-bargaining posturing to prep the Board for holding out on us.

3. The three elementary principals jointly presented an overview of all the changes in the three buildings. They mentioned (several times) the difficulty providing quality instruction with tight budgets and fewer teachers. They also praised the teachers for “getting on board” with all the changes and working so hard to make the transitions work.

4. The Board agreed to allow Matt or Julie to approve up to $199,000 in change orders for the HS construction. They had previously been authorized to approve up to $100,000.

5. The Board agreed to purchase new copiers. No specifics were given to the public, but the cost for the new COLOR copier (at the administration offices, of course) is 6.6 cents per click.

6. The Board (on a vote of 5-2) agreed to sign the county-wide agreement regarding schools of choice. Miller thinks the agreement hurts Parchment more than helps. The two dissenting votes were Gibson and Newnum.

7. The Board went into closed session to discuss negotiations. I didn’t wait around. What was an interesting item on the agenda (for after the closed session) was a future date for the Kalamazoo County School Officers Association. Their November dinner meeting includes a presentation called, “Health Care Without MESSA.” Nice.

After the auditor’s report (showing a decline in fund balance) and various other comments regarding the tight budget picture, I’m sure the closed session went just great (for us). Matt did say to the Board that our enrollment was more stable than expected, and that our enrollment decline was less that feared.

Gibson, however, said that the challenges facing us next year will probably be much worse than anyone can yet predict. He wasn’t clear as to what types of challenges he was referencing.