Ogden Education Association, board may seek EduJobs funds mediator

Jan 15 2011 - 11:16pm

OGDEN -- The Ogden Education Association has rejected the Ogden School District's offer of a stipend for all employees as part of the Federal Education Jobs money granted to the state in November.

The Ogden School Board held a closed meeting Thursday night to discuss what comes next.

The district was given $1.1 million to allocate to its employees, a process that can be done in several different ways, said District Human Resources Director Brenda Ruffier.

It doesn't have to go straight to wages, she said. The money can be used for compensation and benefits or to rehire employees or hire new employees, or it can be allocated as performance bonuses, early retirement incentives or tuition reimbursements.

The district offered a one-time stipend to employees to make up for the step increase pay raise employees did not receive last year. The money would not be worked into employees' annual salaries.

Ruffier said that cannot happen at this point because the district doesn't know what its budget will be for next year.

OEA representative Doug Stephens said one of the biggest problems is that the district has not given step increases for the last two years. Only one other district in the state has not done that. Step increases are salary increases based on time spent teaching in the district.

"The teachers appreciate the gestures the board made, but there are still differences," Stephens said.

He doesn't think things have gotten ugly or out of hand, but said the two sides just can't agree.

Ruffier said the next step for both sides is fact-finding, where the state board of education appoints a third party to assess both sides and offers a solution.

Ruffier said the fact-finding step is very similar to mediation, but in fact-finding, the third party can request additional information from both sides to make an informed decision or suggestion.

Once appointed, the fact-finder has 20 days to gather information and then 10 days to put all the material together.

Ruffier said neither party has to accept the proposal that comes from the fact-finding, but if not, all licensed employees would go without any benefit of the EduJobs money in this year.

The money has to be allocated by 2012, she said.

The board can choose to not negotiate with the OEA and allocate the money as it sees fit, but that could make things difficult, Ruffier said.

It could cause problems because contracts are still not signed for this year and both parties would have to start over.

She doesn't think that will happen, and Stephens doesn't want to see that happen. He wants things to remain amiable, but the OEA feels strongly about the newer teachers being able to get step increases.

"It's pretty tough to recruit good teachers here. It's more challenging than it used to be," Stephens said.

He noted that Ogden teachers used to be paid more than teachers in other districts because it is a more challenging district, but said many other districts are now equal.

He worries many of the good teachers will move to other districts.

Ruffier doesn't want that either. "We are all doing all we can to make this work."

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