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Teacher contract negotiations for the 2018-’19 school year took place April 11, and so far the talks seem to be flowing about as smoothly as last year’s. The Junction City Education Association (JCEA) and Unified School District 475 spent Tuesday discussing next year’s contracts.

Fort Riley Middle School math teacher and JCEA board member Pam Ricard is representing JCEA as head negotiator throughout this year’s contact negotiations. She believes the discussion’s off to a good start.

“I think we did a very good job of collaborating and brainstorming,” she said. “That was a good thing. Nice to see that happening again this year.”

USD 475 spokesperson and Board of Education member Brian Field said the district and the JCEA had chosen to use a process called Interest-Based Bargaining (IBB) to hash out the specifics.

“I think right now everything’s gone fairly well,” Field said. “We’re going to each go research some things and have some discussions ... we had some consensus on a few things.”

During IBB, officials on both sides put all their interests and discussion issues on the table and bargain collectively for what they want, as opposed to fighting with each other to grab all they can from the other side and refusing to budge an inch.

“We had some very open and honest discussion, which I think is really good for getting to the root of the problem instead of just applying a Band-Aid solution,” JCEA President Cathy Rankin said.

Planning time, professional development for teachers, and recruitment and retention of teachers are among the things the two parties needed more research on.

Thus far, one thing the two parties have reached a consensus on is the need for elementary school teachers to have adequate planning time that isn’t filled with distractions.

Rankin said both the JCEA and USD 475 were looking into doing something similar for early childhood educators.

“Though we may not always agree on the best direction to go, I think we’ll be able to collaborate and come up with some good ideas,” Field said.

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