Superintendent Lori VanLeer

Washington School District officials have held five meetings to educate staff on the new collective bargaining policies adopted last month.

Attendance is strictly voluntary, said Superintendent Dr. Lori VanLeer.

“The idea is to provide staff with a neutral look at the process, educate them about the new policies, as well as explain why policies had to be adopted and what they entail,” VanLeer told The Missourian.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Brendan Mahon presented the information to staff and answered their questions.

“The information included an update regarding negotiations, as well as public versus private sector labor laws, Supreme Court rulings, and other reasoning behind having a policy in place in the event one particular organization or the other made a request to change how we negotiate in the district,” VanLeer said.

“The presentations were very forthright and allowed staff the opportunities to seek clarity and understanding regarding our current form of negotiations, or any future negotiations, should an election process prevail,” she said.

Attendance at the meetings has been “mixed,” she said, with about 35 secondary staff and 60 elementary certified staff present. The district employs about 325 certified staff members.

VanLeer said the district has not yet received a formal request to change the negotiations process as outlined in the policy.

However, NEA representatives have informally indicated they would like to be the exclusive union at the bargaining table which led to the adoption of three polices outlining the steps of collective bargaining with teacher organizations.

A formal request is defined as a petition from a group/union seeking representation signed by at least 30 percent of the teachers in the proposed bargaining unit.

That process will require an election with teachers voting on whether they want single, multiple or no representation at the bargaining table.

The district’s current practice for negotiations has been meeting several times each year with representatives of two teacher groups, the Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA) and Washington’s NEA, to discuss salary, benefits and other conditions of employment.

VanLeer said that process will continue until a formal request is received to change it.

MSTA representatives have said they prefer multiple representatives and fear an election would divide teachers.