Teacher Contract Negotiations
By Steven Klein
For board members unaccustomed to union politics, negotiating a new teachers’ contract can be daunting. Boards in larger districts can avoid some pressure by subcontracting with third-party agents, such as a state school boards association representative or attorney, to handle the negotiations. But in smaller districts, board members and superintendents often meet directly with union and teacher representatives to hammer out agreements.
In February 2007, this was the situation in the Riverdale School District in Portland, Ore. Faced with declining enrollment and insufficient state revenues, the board wanted to reduce salaries and renegotiate a number of contract benefits, including an extremely generous retirement stipend and health benefits and a significant number of sick days that drained district finances and adversely affected instructional quality.
Contract negotiations offer an opportunity to fine-tune your contract—to align expectations with practice and to update language to reflect current and anticipated fiscal realities. Whether your board is planning to subcontract or lead its own negotiations, you will be up against a seasoned union veteran trained in negotiation strategies. You likely can’t match your opponents in experience, but you can take steps to increase the likelihood that you will come away with a deal that is acceptable to the board.
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