FARMINGTON — As a collective bargaining dispute between the Central Consolidated School District and its employee union continues, points of contention have included salary increases and teacher evaluations.
The district and the Central Consolidated Educators Association reached an impasse during collective bargaining talks on June 27. The district and union were in the middle of the mediation period with a federal mediator on July 18 when the school district filed salary schedules for employees for the 2014-2015 school year with the New Mexico Public Education Department.
A union representative says contracts have been ratified after the state's filing deadline in the past.
Efforts to reach the Education Department to clarify the matter were unsuccessful.
The sides have different perspectives on why the negotiations were not resolved before the July 18 deadline.
CCSD spokesman James Preminger said the original filing deadline was July 1. He said the impasse between the parties developed as the union continued to up their salary demands.
"This is a form of regressive bargaining, showing they had no intention of reaching an agreement," Preminger said.
Union President Mel Sharp said the district ended the mediation talks early by filing the salary paperwork, which does not comply with a 30-day meditation period required by the New Mexico Public Employee Bargaining Act.
By effectively imposing its "last and best" offer on the union, Sharp said, it may have violated the state statute.
"It's not the first time we've negotiated and gone past that (deadline)," Sharp said.
Preminger said the mediation period ends on Aug. 8 but the union showed no interest in discussing salaries at the July 10 mediation meeting, the only meeting held during that phase of the negotiations.
The salary schedule filed with the state included a 3.4-percent salary increase for teachers and a 3-percent salary increase for non-union hourly employees including staff in human resources, payroll and finance offices. Raises were not included for union employees in departments that included food service, transportation and maintenance.
Preminger said an offer from the district emailed by the federal mediator to the union on July 16 included 3-percent salary increases for most hourly union employees and a 4.4-percent salary increase for teachers.
Sharp said the district subsequently turned down two meeting requests filed by the union to discuss the offer.
Preminger said the lead negotiators for the district and the union were both unavailable to meet between July 16 and 18.
Another point of contention was the salary schedule for teachers, detailing wage increases as they advance in their careers.
The district and the union have been working the last two years to establish a new salary schedule and as they entered discussions this year, the district did not like the schedule.
Preminger said the district has decided the plan is unfair to teachers and that it keeps the district from being competitive with area school districts.
"What the union is trying to do in our eyes is to, basically, make this whole thing into socialism," Preminger said.
Sharp said the district is abandoning its work toward a fair and equitable salary schedule for all teachers.
The subject of teacher evaluations also was included in the contract discussions. The union was looking to remove teacher attendance as an evaluation measure and replace it with student surveys, a measure approved by the state education department. Under the current system teachers can be penalized for taking personal days.
"To have those evaluations knocked down for something that is granted to them doesn't make sense to me," Sharp said.
When asked about the teacher evaluation discussions, Preminger said the teacher evaluations are set by the state. He said the union pursued that issue at the expense of teacher salaries.