School, union begin contract negotiations

 By Kay Braddock

        As the one-year contract for salaries and benefits of the certified teaching staff at Terry Public Schools draws to a close, school trustees and union representatives have begun talks to negotiate a new agreement.

Two meetings were held earlier this month between school trustees and members of the Terry Teachers Association, MEA-MFT. Another meeting is planned for Monday, March 29, according to Terry Schools Superintendent Charles Deisher, who described the negotiations as “going well.”
School trustees participating in the talks are Jason Higgins, Brian Morast and Sherry Strasheim. Teachers Paula Rein, Barb Sackman and Stefanie Forcella are representing the TTA, MEA-MFT. 
Once an agreement is reached at the bargaining table, a vote must come before the full board of trustees before the contract is settled. 
The school currently employs 14 full-time teachers along with several part-time teachers. Of the nearly 18 total teachers employed six are members of the TTA, MEA-MFT.
In other school developments, school trustees unanimously voted to offer Superintendent Charles Deisher a one-year contract during the regular February meeting. 
Strasheim was the only trustee who expressed reservation before casting an affirmative vote.
“I have to be honest, it’s been a real struggle for me,” Strasheim said. “I’ve had some issues.” 
Although Strasheim didn’t elaborate on specific areas of concern, she has criticized the superintendent for a lack of communication with teachers and parents during previous school board meetings.
The contract was approved at the same salary of $58,000.
The unfair labor practice hearing, addressing charges brought against the school by the TTA, MEA-MFT, is scheduled for May 17 and 18 at the Stockman Bank in Terry.
The charges, filed in June of last year with the Montanan Board of Personnel Appeals, stem from a $1,000 stipend the school board approved to pay for three “open-gym positions,” with one employee being paid $600 while two others were paid $200 each. 
Previously no pay had been offered to those who opened the gym and weight room to students during the summer months. 
Union reps have contended the positions and pay offered needed to be ironed out at the bargaining table.
The school has spent $32,000 on legal fees addressing the charge.
A proposal to change honor roll requirements was brought to school trustees during the March 22 regular meeting. Supt. Deisher said he suggested the proposal after several teachers first mentioned to him.
Currently students can achieve honor roll status while still receiving C grades, as long as the total grade point average meets 3.0. Each letter grade is given a point amount (A 4, B 3, C+ 2.5, C 2 and C- 1.5). The proposed change would allow students to only receive one C or C+ grade in each quarter. 
No motion was made on the proposal.
Published March 24, 2010

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