Mediation attempt fails in Platte-Geddes disputeThe next step to resolve a dispute over the Platte-Geddes School District’s 2010-11 teachers contract apparently lies in the hands of its teachers union. A mediation session to resolve an impasse between negotiators for the school board and Platte-Geddes Educational Association was unsuccessful this week.
By: Melanie Brandert, The Daily Republic
PLATTE — The next step to resolve a dispute over the Platte-Geddes School District’s 2010-11 teachers contract apparently lies in the hands of its teachers union.
A mediation session to resolve an impasse between negotiators for the school board and Platte-Geddes Educational Association was unsuccessful this week.
Rodney Freeman, a Huron attorney representing the school board, said PGEA must decide whether to pursue a fact-finding hearing in Pierre with the state Department of Labor. The board will not make the request, he said.
“If the teachers don’t request it, the board’s last, best offer will stand,” Freeman said.
A state Department of Labor mediator met Tuesday with negotiators for a couple hours, said James Marsh, state Division of Labor and Management director.
“The positions they took going into mediation were what they ended up with when they were done,” he said. “They just weren’t interested in what the mediator might have to say.”
Platte-Geddes is the third school district in the state in the past few months to seek mediation from the state Labor Department on contract issues. Haakon County and White River have requested that service.
The main issues behind the deadlock involve teachers wanting a one-time, $250 stipend to help cover the cost of a $500 increase in health insurance premiums for singles, and the school board wanting to set a higher penalty for teachers who break their contracts between August and spring, said Brad Peterson, lead negotiator for the education association. Contracts are typically renewed each spring.
School board representatives have told the teachers’ negotiators that there isn’t enough money in the general fund for the stipend, Peterson has said.
Initially, the board suggested a $1,300 penalty for breaking contracts between August and the spring, while teachers supported $1,000.
PGEA’s last package before impasse was a $400 stipend and $1,300 penalty, while the school board proposed a $150 stipend and $1,000 penalty, Peterson said via e-mail Thursday. He said that education association negotiators tried to seek a higher penalty to get a higher stipend, but school board negotiators suggested the opposite.
Tess Starr, lead negotiator for the school board, had declared an impasse at the second and third meetings, Peterson said. Both sides met three times in May.
Starr deferred comment to Freeman about the mediation on Thursday.
PGEA had prepared a substantially smaller proposal, Peterson said Thursday. The board not only rejected the offer, but also would not counter it, he said.
“While we realize that this impasse process is stacked in favor of the board, PGEA’s only wish was that a rational compromise be reached through discussion,” he said.
Peterson said PGEA is weighing its options on whether to file a hearing request with the Labor Department.
Freeman would not comment on why the mediation failed. He said he was retained by the school board to attend the mediation because the South Dakota Education Association had a representative present.
A fact-finding hearing can be requested within 10 days after the mediation, said Dawn Dovre, Department of Labor public information officer.
At that hearing, both sides would present their contract positions and rationale for taking them, Marsh said.
The department would then put them in a report and make a recommendation on how to proceed with the contract, Marsh said. A decision would be made in a week to 10 days, he said.
Tony Glass, Platte-Geddes superintendent, would not comment on the mediation’s failure or any potential moves that PGEA or the school board could make.
Glass, however, expressed confidence that the matter will be resolved before classes begin for 2010-11. He said if a fact-finding hearing occurs, the state Department of Labor would make a decision in mid-August.