Shawnee Mission teachers, admin won’t hold contract fact-finding session until January

Shawnee Mission teachers have packed the board chambers in recent weeks to lobby for a new contract.

Negotiating teams for the Shawnee Mission School District administration and teachers union won’t hold their public meeting with a state-assigned fact finder on contract dispute resolution until Jan. 9, significantly later than the parties had indicated they hoped for.

Teachers clad in red have packed the past three board of education meetings to lobby for a contract for the 2019-20 year after initial negotiations this summer and then mediated negotiations this fall failed to yield an agreement. Following the failure of those efforts, negotiations moved to a state-mandated fact finding phase.

At the board meeting last week, president Brad Stratton told teachers in the audience that the district hoped to schedule the fact finding session to be held “preferably at the end of this month, if possible.”

But representatives of both the district and the union confirmed today that scheduling conflict had hampered that goal, and that the session had been set for 5 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 9 at the Center for Academic Achievement.

Both parties expressed frustration with the situation.

“We know that our teachers are struggling with not having the contract settled, and think it is unconscionable to delay this any longer,” wrote Shawnee Mission Chief Information Officer David Smith. “We are STILL willing to have it any day in December, and will make the sacrifices in our schedules necessary to make that happen.”

NEA-Shawnee Mission President Linda Sieck countered that the scheduling issues at hand would not have presented themselves if the district had been responsive to meeting requests from the outset of negotiations this spring.

“The district has delayed negotiations since notice letters were exchanged in March…” Sieck wrote. “It is the end of the semester – now our schedules are full with professional responsibilities, family obligations, personal obligations…not to mention Thanksgiving and the winter holidays.”

Pushing the fact-finding meeting date past the end of the year means teachers will see their health insurance costs rise without any offset from the district. The offers put on the table by the district for a contract included a $45 per month contribution to offset increased premiums for staff. Those premium increases will go into effect on Jan. 1 with teachers operating under last year’s contract.