The Washington School Board heard from the district’s National Education Association (NEA) president Wednesday night in an ongoing discussion on collective bargaining.

The district and teachers have a tradition of informally discussing salary, benefits and other conditions of employment.

Currently, representatives of two teacher groups, the Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) and Washington’s NEA, meet with administrators on salaries.

Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer said in a previous meeting that this informal process will continue in the absence of a request for a more formal procedure, but she feels it’s in the district’s best interest to adopt policies and a process to recognize a union or teachers association if the situation arises.

MSTA representatives would prefer to keep the process as is with multiple representatives at the table while WNEA would like exclusive representation.

Leslie Edwards, WNEA president, told the board her group would still like to see the issue go to a vote.

During the August school board meeting, Brett Hoch, a South Central MSTA member and Washington Middle School teacher, spoke to board members about a third option that he called “Team Washington.”

The option was based on another school district’s policy and is a dual organizational process that includes administrators, board members and teacher groups. In response to Hoch’s proposal, Edwards told the board she feels the policy is similar to what the school district already has in place.

If teachers vote, they will have the opportunity to choose whether they want single representation, dual representation, a Team Washington model or to leave things as they are.

Hoch said he fears an election will “tear teachers apart.”

VanLeer said the issue would be put back on the agenda for discussion in October and possibly in November. She said the board will continue researching all options.

“Obviously we have to look very closely at all of the modes of collective bargaining and we have to come up with a policy that sets up the parameters in terms of what we do as a school district when someone requests a change in the way we meet and confer,” she said. “In the absence of policy, we don’t have a direction.”

VanLeer said it’s important that the staff as a whole feels comfortable with the process.

The district’s attorney Celynda Brasher, of Tueth, Keeny, Cooper, Mohan & Jackstadt P.C., attended the August meeting to answer board members questions.

Brasher said there are no statutes to govern negotiations or recognition of or selection of bargaining representatives by certified employees. All current law was established by case law.

“There are 522 districts in the state and each one has its own separate approach to how it negotiates with employees,” she told the school board.

Brasher said the district has a legal obligation once entering into negotiations to bargain in good faith, however, good faith is not defined under Missouri law for public employee negotiations.