Changes in collective bargaining discussed at school board Q & A

Greene County school superintendent Tim Christensen and board president David Ohrt do not see big changes in the board’s relationship with teachers following changes to Iowa’s collective bargaining legislation. They were asked to comment on the legislation at the board’s informal Q & A last week.

Ohrt said he has mixed feelings about the changes. “It makes it easier to negotiate, but I think it takes power away from the teachers. My sense is that it takes some responsibility off the state to support the schools and puts it on the teachers’ backs,” he said.

“Teachers and the board have to get along. If you don’t have a cordial relationship, you can do anything you want as management, but there’s going to be a reply by labor. There are consequences for any decision you make,” Christensen said.

Ohrt agreed with Christensen, saying a district can have all the buildings it wants, “but if you don’t have teachers you don’t have a school. We’re very dependent on what the teachers do. They’re the biggest part of the curriculum. If they’re not happy there’s not going to be a lot of good teaching going on.”

Board member Mark Peters said he isn’t worried about larger districts with more financial resources being able to lure away good teachers. “If you want to live and work in rural Iowa, you’re going to live and work in rural Iowa,” he said. He does not see other districts having enough money to offer large enough incentives to make a difference.

The board has initial proposals from the bus drivers’ union and the teachers. Both groups are asking for two year contracts. The bus drivers proposed a 3 percent increase on the base wage in both years of the contract. The teachers are asking for a $300 increase on the base salary in the first year and a $200 increase in the second year.

Christensen responded to a question about additional state funding for school transportation, as discussed by Sen Jerry Behn at the Pastry and Politics session the previous Saturday. According to Christensen, the Greene County district is the eighth largest in the state geographically, and it spends $300,000 more on transportation annually than the state average. He would welcome help from the state with those costs.

Christensen commended the high school vocal music department for its production of “Shrek the Musical.” He said the show was “fantastic.” “Nice job by everybody who was involved in that. It was really good,” he said.

The job of figuring out room assignments to bring grades 5 and 6 to the middle school in Jefferson are nearly finished, Christensen said. Portable classrooms will not be needed. He also said the Glidden-Ralston board approved a 50 percent sharing agreement for an instrumental music teacher.

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