Shawnee Mission teachers, admin set final negotiations session in hopes of reaching contract accord

Members of the Kansas National Education Association – Shawnee Mission’s negotiating team during a session in June. The teachers and administration have not been able to come to terms on a new contract for the current school year. A final negotiations session is set for next Tuesday, Jan. 28.

The state assigned fact finder who heard testimony from the Shawnee Mission School District administration and National Education Association-Shawnee Mission earlier this month has issued the report with his recommendations on terms for a contract agreement, setting the stage for one final negotiation session between the parties.

The NEA-Shawnee Mission announced to its members over the weekend that the union and administration will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28 at the Center for Academic Achievement. The session will be open to the public.

However, the parties have agreed not to release the fact finder’s report until after the negotiations session has concluded, a decision permitted under Kansas’s Professional Negotiations Act.

This session will be the last chance for the parties to reach mutual agreement on a contract. Should they fail to come to terms, the Board of Education would be given the power to set the terms for a contract. At that point, teachers could either accept those terms, continue to work under last year’s contract (as they are now), or resign.

NEA-Shawnee Mission President Linda Sieck said the teachers’ team was ready to negotiate once more.

“NEA SM is ready to return to the table and it hopeful both sides can negotiate an agreement that helps move us all forward,” Sieck wrote.

Shawnee Mission Chief Communications Officer David Smith said that “The District very much looks forward to sitting down with NEA-SM and working to reach agreement.”

Central to the disagreement that’s led to the current situation is teacher’s contention that their workloads have increased significantly in recent years, but that they have not received a commensurate increase in pay. Secondary teachers in Shawnee Mission frequently teach six classes a day instead of the standard five, meaning they have more students to attend to and less planning time to prepare for that larger student load. Teachers have packed board of education meetings in recent months, using the public comment portion of the agenda to share stories of waning morale and burnout.

The last offer the district had on the negotiating table would have provided a 1% base salary increase for all district teachers for 2019-20 and a 1.25% base salary increase in 2020-21 in addition to “step-and-column” movement along the salary schedule — the mechanism through which teachers get paid more for additional years of experience and education. That package, which also includes a stipend to help offset increase health insurance costs, would have represented an increase of $3.9 million in teacher compensation from 2018-19, according to the district. Shawnee Mission teachers are among the highest paid in the state of Kansas.