At Q&A session, Shawnee Mission board president discusses variables that led to attempt at 3-year unilateral contract

Shawnee Mission Board of Education President Heather Ousley detailed some of the variables that led the board to pursue a three-year unilateral contract over the objection of many teachers. She said the predictability that the three-year contract would have offered could have helped the district move some of its janitorial service expenses to a different funding bucket, thus freeing up more money for classroom employees.

Shawnee Mission Board of Education President Heather Ousley on Saturday publicly answered questions about this year’s contentious teacher contract negotiations process for the first time since the Department of Labor ruled that the second and third years of the three-year unilateral contract adopted by the board were unenforceable.

The Q&A session at the Matt Ross Community Center in downtown Overland Park was co-hosted by Education First Shawnee Mission and the Shawnee Mission Post.

Full video of the session is embedded below. Time codes for the topics Ousley discussed are as follows:

  • Teachers are the frontline employees who are responsible for carrying out the district’s objectives in the classroom every day, and many teachers had a very negative reaction to the decision to move forward with the three-year unilateral contract. Is it fair to say that the board didn’t fully appreciate how much trust between teachers and the administration had been damaged in the previous several years — prior to your arrival? Discussion starts at 9:00.
  • There are a number of teachers who want us to ask if you have any regrets about how this year’s process turned out. One teacher wrote the following: “I voted for you and others on this board because of your beliefs and campaign to help teachers. I stood by you in Topeka. But any faith I had in my board is gone… You want us to heal give me some faith, show some remorse for the handling of this situation. While you are here for the students, you can’t do that without being there for the teachers. I can’t find healing without your remorse.” What do you say to that? Discussion starts at 15:30.
  • There have been a number of people who have complained about “tone-deaf” communication that they say hurt morale and the negotiations process. Is anything being done to help the communications department improve moving forward? Why can’t we hear from the District during negotiations with NEA-SM? Discussion starts 30:00.
  • Some of the people in the room for the final negotiating session were surprised to see Greg Goheen, an attorney who had only been brought in at the end of the process, was the only person at the bargaining table. None of the representatives of the administrative staff that had been at the table throughout the process were there. Why weren’t any district employees part of the administration’s negotiating team at that last session? Discussion starts at 35:30.
  • How much has the district spent on Goheen’s services and where that money comes from. Discussion starts at 36:20.
  • Why didn’t the board follow the fact finder’s specific recommendation to try to work toward a two-year deal that offered teachers slightly more than what the district had previously put on the table? Discussion starts at 40:00.
  • Can you comment on whose idea the three-year unilateral contract was initially? Was that something proposed by the administration? The attorney? The board? Discussion starts at 24:45.
  • What ideas do you have to rebuild trust with teachers? Here’s one of the questions we got on the webpage: “What lessons have been learned about communication, engagement, and negotiation between district admin, the board, and teachers? How will all parties move forward in restoring and actively promoting trust, respect and collaboration in the future? Does the district support the use of a third-party mediator for the upcoming negotiation process?” Discussion starts at 43:00.
  • Could the district be doing more to make its budget deliberations process more public and better understood by patrons? Discussion starts at 47:00.
  • Some teachers have been frustrated by a perceived disconnect between the central office administration and classroom teachers. What could be done to address that? Discussion starts at 49:30.
  • Much of the debate at the end of the negotiation revolved around the 6:7 teaching schedule and the strong interest of middle and high school teachers to return to a 5:7 schedule. What are the board and admin doing to support that request and help teachers provide students with individualized learning plans? Discussion starts at 52:15.
  • Will the board take a closer look at the administration, at the building and central office level, to ensure a productive culture? Discussion starts at 1:00:00.
  • How can caring community members support the process of reconciliation within the school district community? Discussion starts at 1:03:00.