Dust-up over changes to teacher plan time

Union reps tell board teachers wanted more involvement in decision-making

By Bryan Richardson

Comments from a representative of the USD 383 teachers’ union prompted several school board members to defend the process by which a decision was arrived at on changes to teacher collaboration time Wednesday.

Lisa Heller, the National Education Association Manhattan-Ogden chapter president, addressed board members about what she characterized as a lack of communication during discussions that led to changes approved at the meeting.

The board last year commissioned two task forces of administration, teachers, principals and board members to develop proposals for a new high school schedule and more professional development and collaboration time for elementary teachers.

The board didn’t act on a high school schedule, but it passed the elementary plan by a 6-1 vote Wednesday. That plan will be negotiated into the teachers’ contracts.

Heller said teachers wanted more involvement than a few email surveys, one of which she said teachers at one school didn’t receive the opportunity to answer. She said teachers were uncertain about what would be happening with the elementary plan.

“I’ll take some blame on teachers not being informed,” Heller said. “I thought I was informing teachers even with the schedule things. I tried to send out emails to the entire bargaining unit.”

Heller said teachers were concerned about whether the board would dictate how the increased time for elementary teachers would be used. “Do teachers really get to self-direct that collaboration time and choose whom they work and when they need to work with them on those times?” she asked.

Board members mentioned receiving emails this week from teachers dealing with those concerns.  They said the process has been open.

Various board members added that they didn’t appreciate insinuations in some of the emails that the board had bad motives for acting as it did on collaboration time.

“I took it personally because I perceived that email questioned our motives and our intent, and I’ve never been more simple and more pure and more clear in my intent on anything I’ve done on this board than supporting collaboration time for teachers,” Dave Colburn said of his response to one email.

Pete Paukstelis said people have an obligation to be a part of the process. “You can’t expect to be spoon-fed everything,” he said. “Someone once said politics is a contact sport. You have to get involved. That’s the way it works.”

Curt Herrman said he felt Heller was being “thrown under the bus” on behalf of teachers. “I don’t see one teacher here that was opposed to this plan to back you up and give you support,” he said.

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