Teacher contract impasse awaits report from fact finders

School’s out for the summer, but one local district is still hard at work when it comes to teacher contracts for the upcoming academic year.

After months of negotiations, the Minot Education Association and the school board have reached part two of the impasse.

What’s next depends on the most recent report from a third party fact finding commission, who will not only make a contract recommendation, but will determine who’s responsible for the impasse.
KX News spoke with those on both sides of the disagreement to see what exactly led to impasse for the first time in 16 years.

“For the fourth year in a row, this was the number one issue that our teachers wanted us to work on,” Amy Neal, kindergarten teacher and negotiator for the Minot Education Association said.

That issue is the inability for Minot Public School teachers to take paid sick leave for their children older than 21.

The other three issues that led to an impasse were a salary increase, a safer workplace, and language changes to grievance policy.

Business Manager for Minot Public Schools, Scott Moum said, “I’ve done this now for 15 or 16 years here in Minot and I did it for 18 years in another school district and this is only the second time I’ve actually gone to impasse.”

The impasse led to a third-party fact finding commission to hear both sides. The commission consists of three appointees, on each named by the governor, attorney general, and the Department of Public Instruction.

Its recommendations eventually led to compromise – appointing a safety committee and an outline for grievance procedure.

Still, salary and the use of sick time stand in the way of an agreement.

The school board followed the recommendation to propose that in a catastrophic event, teachers could use paid sick time to care for adult children.

“They believe they’ve met everything that the commission and the purpose of the commission was intended for,” Moum said.

But teachers say,  (Neal) 71 “The word catastrophic, we feel it hinders the ability to use this leave.”

Bill Irmen has a daughter who is also a teacher in Minot – and he said this issue hits home.

“So I couldn’t drive her to the hospital, but she could come over to my house and make chicken soup if I were sick,” Irmen added, “so there doesn’t seem to be the continuity that we would like.”

Despite the potential of contract imposition this year, Irmen and Neal say this is something they’ll continue to fight for.”

“Reglardless of what happens at negotiations,” Irmen said, “we’re going to show up in the fall and we’re to going to be ready to teach and we’re going to love our jobs.”

According to North Dakota United, of the more than 180 school districts in the state, a vast majority of them do not have contractual language that prohibits teachers from using sick time for adult children.

Regardless, Moum said it’s likely that the school board will follow the commission’s recommendation, but not until after the public and both sides are given opportunity for input.

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