Kansas Department of Labor expected to rule on Shawnee Mission teachers’ complaint today

NEA-Shawnee Mission President Linda Sieck said the new agreement "important step forward in the district and the association working together on behalf of our students, our staff, and our community."

The deadline for teachers to inform the Shawnee Mission School District’s human resources department of whether they will or will not accept the provisions of the unilateral contract adopted by the board of education last month is today at 4:30 p.m.

But some uncertainty hangs over the situation as that deadline draws near.

The National Education Association-Shawnee Mission filed an emergency prohibited practice complaint with the Kansas Department of Labor, claiming the district did not have the legal authority to issue a unilateral contract for three years. The district filed a response to that complaint with the department, and the parties have been waiting for Kansas Secretary of Labor Delía García to render a decision. KDOL Communications and Legislative Director Julie Menghini said Friday morning that García would inform the district and union of her decision sometime later today.

On Thursday evening, NEA-Shawnee Mission president Linda Sieck and Kevin Scarrow of the KNEA hosted a livestreamed presentation on Facebook providing information to teachers about their options as the contract decision deadline nears. Teachers have the option to accept the unilateral contract, to continue to work under the provisions of last year’s contract, or to resign without penalty.

During the presentation, Sieck encouraged teachers who would not see a major financial boost from signing the unilateral contract to consider “stacking” their contracts — working under the terms of last year’s deal. Teachers who stack their contracts will not have a deal in place heading in to the 2020-21 school year. Sieck contends that fact gives the union the ability to return to the bargaining table to negotiate on those teachers’ behalf.

“We will go back to the table and negotiate for those with stacked contracts for 20-21,” she said.

Sieck said the union planned to send notice to the district in March of its intent to negotiate.

However, Shawnee Mission Chief Communications Officer David Smith said Friday that the district did not share the union’s assessment of the situation, and that he did not believe the union would have the right to come back to the bargaining table for next year.