The Havre Public School Districts are taking the first steps in preparing for negotiations with district employee unions next spring.
At Tuesday night’s Board of Trustees meeting, Superintendent Andy Carlson recommended that the board hire the Montana School Board Association’s Director of Personnel Services Andy Sever to represent the district in the talks.
While the board eventually passed the request, a few concerns were raised in the preceding discussion.
Trustee Mark Magelssen, the only one to vote against the hiring, began the discussion by asking how much this would cost the school district.
According to information from the MTSBA including the board’s packet, Sever’s fee is $110 an hour.
Lee Christianson, trustee and last year’s board chair, said that the district did not initially have a negotiator last year, but wrapped up the contract talks with one.
This time around, Christianson recommended the talks begin with one to “look professional and prepared, ” and to avoid wasting the time of anyone involved.
Vicky Michels, a fourth-grade teacher at Sunnyside, regularly joins the board meetings as a representative of the Havre Education Association, one of the three unions the district will negotiate with, including the unions of the school’s paraprofessionals and classified staffs.
Michels had some personal concerns from her own experience in negotiating and Andy Sever in particular.
She said that, in her interactions with Sever, his demeanor had been “adversarial”. When they had met before, the unions had compiled the language of a proposed agreement while Sever and the district had not, a move Michels said was “not negotiating in good faith. ”
That interaction, Michels admitted, was under a completely different school administration, and she added that she remains hopeful that the new administration will do a better job of handling the process.
The teachers in Havre, Michels said, were “never trying to get anything or pull anything over. ” All they want, said Michels, are good learning conditions for students and working conditions for teachers who can earn enough to take care of their families.
Christianson said that he understood Michels’ concerns that “are very valid. ” He acknowledged that “past experiences have not been positive, ” but that this is a new process, with new players and that the entire district needs to move forward.
“We are a team, ” Christianson said. “We need to move forward as a team. ”