Shawnee Mission administration, teachers union reach tentative agreement on 1-year contract

“Today’s successful mediation and the commitment to the use of a facilitator for future negotiations were productive steps to support our work together, as we strive to serve the students we are all dedicated to,” Board President Heather Ousley said of the agreement.

The Shawnee Mission School District administration and National Education Association-Shawnee Mission, the union representing the district’s teachers, announced on Thursday that they had come to terms on a one-year contract for the current school year that will be put to employees for a ratification vote next week.

The announcement followed a closed-door session with a federal mediator that was scheduled after the Kansas Department of Labor ruled the district had engaged in a prohibited labor practice when it adopted a unilateral three-year contract at the end of January.

The Department of Labor decision, which coincided with the deadline for teachers to inform the district’s human resources office of their decision on whether or not to accept the unilateral contract, added another wrinkle to an already complicated situation. Many teachers had informed the district that they would “stack” their contracts — that is, continue to work under last year’s deal — instead of accepting the terms of the three-year contract adopted by the board. By doing so, they forewent the 1% base salary increase and any step-and-column pay increases they would have received under the terms of the 2019-20 portion of the unilateral contract — but they would have retained the right to negotiate for the 2020-21 school year.

With the second and third years of that contract invalidated by the Department of Labor, it was unclear whether teachers who had stacked their contracts would be given the chance to change their decision — and thus see the pay increases they would have been guaranteed under this year’s deal.

The joint agreement on a single contract for the 2019-20 school year reached by the parties Thursday would clear that confusion up, as it would be the sole contract under which all teachers would be working for the remainder of this school year.

However, the new one-year deal must be ratified by members of the teachers union. The union will be sending the contract out to members for a vote between March 9 and 11. Fifty percent of the bargaining unit’s members must vote to accept the contract for it to be ratified.

District, union leaders issue public statements of support for brokered deal

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.”

NEA-Shawnee Mission President Linda Sieck, Superintendent Mike Fulton and Board President Heather Ousley all issued statements in support of the mediated agreement Thursday:

  • “Today’s process is an important step forward in the district and the association working together on behalf of our students, our staff, and our community,” said Sieck.
  • “This represents the first steps in a process of healing that will allow us to work together for the benefit of our hard-working teachers and the students we serve,” said Fulton.
  • “Today’s successful mediation and the commitment to the use of a facilitator for future negotiations were productive steps to support our work together, as we strive to serve the students we are all dedicated to,” said Ousley.

The district also indicated that the parties have agreed to retain a federal mediator to participate in the negotiations for the 2020-21 school year “to enable a collaborative problem-solving process between the parties, with the goal of achieving a professional negotiated agreement for the 2020-2021 school year.” The negotiation process for the 2020-21 contract will begin this month as the parties notice each other on which issues they’d like to have on the bargaining table.

What’s different from unilateral contract

The terms of the contract that will be put to teachers for ratification next week mirror the first year of the unilateral contract in terms of compensation, with a 1% base salary increase and step-and-column movement along the salary schedule. (Step-and-column movement is how teachers are compensated for additional years of experience or educational attainment).

There were two notable changes, however, on non-compensation issues:

  • The contract now explicitly grants the union access to the names and contact info of new district employees. Teachers had expressed concerns about language in the unilateral contract that could have prevented them from accessing such information. The union desires information about new employees so that it can communicate with them about union membership and activities.
  • The contract now has a provision that says complaints about teacher conduct that are found to be without merit will not be kept in a professional employee’s file. This was another issue from the unilateral contract that prompted pushback from the NEA-Shawnee Mission, which had concerns that records of unfounded complaints could be used for retaliatory purposes.