Teachers reject agreement
By Tim Leeds
The Havre Public Schools Board of Trustees unanimously approved entering new contract negotiations with the HEA (Havre Education Association) at its meeting Tuesday night.
Superintendent Kirk Miller told the board that his office had received a letter from the HEA on May 4 stating that the members of the union had unexpectedly voted down the contract agreement an interest-based-bargaining (IBB) team created over a period of four months of negotiation. The letter asked if the board would like to resume IBB negotiations.
Trustee Kathie Newell said she was not opposed to returning to IBB negotiations, but that she didn't see much point in doing so.
"I feel that this board provided the HEA with the investment in staff that it promised it would in the restructuring plan," she said. "I just don't see there's a whole lot of other stuff we can do."
The agreement provided for three years, with a 4 percent raise the first year and 3 percent raises in the second and third. Some of the increase would have gone to pay for health insurance, with the district contribution increasing from $256 to $270 per month. Some of the increase would have gone to extra curricular activities.
HEA President Karen Mikota said this development will not keep teachers out of the classroom while new negotiations are under way.
"This is not a situation of people not being able to work," she said. "We aren't saying we won't go into the classroom."
Mikota said the HEA members can continue to work under the current contract during the negotiations. She said the next steps are to inform the members of the board's decision, collect input and hold meetings to vote on the union's next actions.
The IBB negotiating team, consisting of representatives from the administration and the board and from HEA, had unanimously approved the bargaining agreement.
The team was trained in successful negotiation strategies last November. The IBB principle is to negotiate from the grounds of common interests between the two groups.
The board unanimously approved a motion made by Trustee Brian Morse to rescind the board's provisional acceptance of the agreement at its April 10 meeting and instructing Miller to hire a professional negotiator to represent the district in collective bargaining contract negotiations. The board had approved the IBB agreement, on the contingency that the HEA also approved it.
Trustee Teresa Miller said that it would be unfair to bring the IBB negotiating team back together and start renegotiating a contract that so much time and effort had gone into creating. Trustee Judy Bricker said that since the principle of IBB is one of mutual interests and agreement, if there is not unanimous approval, it's not worth renegotiating anyway.
"I don't know how much clearer it could be," she said.
Morse agreed with Newell that the agreement had already met the district's goal of investing in the staff of the district as much as it was able.
"I think that what we ended up with in the agreement were things that were a little bit more than were comfortable for the board," he said. "The percentages went beyond the comfort zone."