OGDEN -- Ogden Education Association President Doug Stephens turned in petitions Tuesday endorsed by approximately 2,000 supporters who oppose the Ogden School District's rejection of collective bargaining and the ultimatum that forces each teacher to sign a district-authored contract by the end of today or lose his or her job.
Half of the petition signatures were from educators and their supporters who attended a Thursday rally in Ogden. The other half were from a Utah Education Association website that allowed people to sign online.
The petition asks the district to:
- Reinstate bargaining rights with the educators' agent for the upcoming school year.
- Include the educators' bargaining agent in all future discussions related to salary, benefits and working conditions.
- Work with educators in a spirit of collaboration, rather than conflict, on programs targeting student success.
Stephens had a box of petitions and the attention of several news outlets.
His only problem was finding someone to accept the petitions.
Stephens tried the office of Superintendent Noel Zabriskie, but was told Zabriskie was on vacation.
After a stop at the public information office, Stephens was directed to the building next door, where district spokeswoman Donna Corby accepted the box and promised to give it to Zabriskie upon his return.
Stephens said he doesn't expect the petitions to make a dramatic difference.
"There's no way it's going to stop the action they've taken," he said, referring to the district's take-it-or-leave-it contract.
"I'm just hoping they realize this isn't the way you ought to do business in Utah schools. Cooperation is crucial. There needs to be collaboration."
The district's non-negotiated contract announced the elimination of steps -- a schedule of raises based on years worked -- over a six-year period.
Steps will be replaced by a system of merit pay, with details to be determined.
Stephens said teachers would be better able to cope if the new contract made only that one change.
The new contract also includes more than 100 other small and large changes, Stephens said, as part of the package deal. Changes include a limitation on the grievance process and a longer workday.
Signed contracts are due from the district's teachers, who number about 700, by 4 p.m. today.
Late last week, a district representative said 350 signed contracts had been turned in. On Tuesday, the district said it had no updated numbers.
Stephens said he will turn in a substantial number of signed contracts for OEA members today, but will not share the time out of respect for district secretaries who might be embarrassed by the media attention.
Stephens said he will continue to try to reach Zabriskie and school board members to discuss issues, but there will be no teacher strike.
"A strike is not feasible," he said. "Teachers care too much about the kids."