The Geary County Unified School District 475 and Junction City Education Association have been in meetings since June 2 to work through contract negotiations for the 2020-21 school year.
John Rasmussen, South Central- Wichita Federal Mediation Conciliation Service commissioner, has acted as the moderator for the negotiations via video conferencing.
During the June 2 meeting, a list of 20 issues to be discussed was created. Two of the items, length of the school year and employee benefits, were discussed and resolved prior to the meeting.
The first issue discussed was the Early Childhood report and plan times. Nate Downs, Special Education executive director, said the early childhood would be the same as elementary plan time at 60 minutes a day.
Other issues discussed included online teaching, supplemental leave, elementary voting and teacher appraisals. Most were discussed with no resolution or were tabled awaiting further instruction.
The June 11 meeting begin with a discussion on the middle school schedule. A presentation was given by Heather Oentrich, Junction City Middle School principal, and Lacee Sell, USD 475 associate superintendent, on the why behind the change.
“I think the whole reason why we want to do this has to be the foundation for what we do,” Oentrich said. “Not whether everybody agrees with it or not, whether it’s better or worse than before, but like really looking at the why behind it.”
Oentrich said when looking at assessment data from 2018 and 2019 from both Fort Riley Middle School and JCMS, a large number of students rank in the lower two levels of results signaling a significant need when it comes to reading levels of students.
“And this isn’t just at our level,” she said. “We’ve looked at data pre-K through 12 and we know that those needs are evident everywhere.”
“One thing very obvious and glaring was the fact that we didn’t have any (English Language Arts) or reading alignment across our elementary schools, therefore issues that then presented themselves at the middle levels,” Sell said.
After a sidebar meeting, a solution was reached to meet the requirements of the issue.
The next issue that went through discussion was the topic of pandemic language. As there is currently now language in the contract that addresses what will happen during a pandemic. The team was tasked with drafting language that will be included as an appendix to the document.
The final issue discussed during the meeting was the middle school duty day. After working on options to remedy the issue, it was tabled until the next meeting.
On June 23, after comments that were made at the previous meeting, everyone was reminded that they are all working to do what is best for the students whether everyone agrees or not on what that is.
The first issue of the meeting to be discussed what voting for elementary contact time. After working through multiple options offered, a solution was agreed on.
The team went on to talk about the working for the pandemic clause. A draft was handed out by the district and the issue was tabled until the next meeting so the language could be analyzed.
The middle school reporting time was brought back to the table as the next issue to discuss. Additional options were created but the issued was tabled again so the team could review data pertaining to tardy information.
At the June 24 meeting, the first topic was returning to middle school report time. Additional options were proposed but there was not a solution agreed upon and it was tabled for a future discussion.
Other topics discussed included supplemental leave, Additional work to substituting and hourly pay were discussed before the meeting ended for the day.
Further meetings are planned and will be announced on the district’s Facebook page.