SHIPROCK — The Central Consolidated School District has offered a glimpse into its recent mediation over salaries with the employee union.
Eric James, the district's finance director, made a presentation on the mediation Tuesday evening at the Phil L. Thomas Performing Arts Center in Shiprock. Superintendent Don Levinski and the district's human resources director, George Schumpelt, both sat on stage during the presentation, but neither spoke during the 35-minute presentation.
At the start, James said the presentation's purpose was to provide transparency about the negotiation process for employee compensation between the district and the Central Consolidated Educators Association, the employee union.
He also said the presentation would not include a question-and-answer session.
"At the time of this presentation, the last compensation offer made by the district was rejected. Our purpose tonight is to share with you why we are fighting so hard for our teachers and for our non-certified staff and to be competitive with the surrounding districts," James said.
On June 27, the district and the union reached an impasse during collective bargaining talks.
They were in the middle of the mediation period with a federal mediator on July 18 when the district filed salary schedules for employees for the 2014-2015 school year with the New Mexico Public Education Department.
The salary schedule filed with the state education department included a 3.4 percent salary increase for teachers and 3 percent salary increase for non-union hourly employees.
Raises were not included for union employees in departments that included food service, maintenance and transportation.
During Tuesday's presentation, James said the wages CCSD pays bus drivers, cooks and maintenance personnel is more than the Farmington Municipal School District. But when it comes to certified staff salaries, CCSD has 95 positions that fall below Farmington's wages, he said.
He said the salaries CCSD teachers earn in their first few years with the district fall below that of surrounding school districts, but if teachers remain with the district for longer, their pay increases above the competition.
"The gross inequality reflected in the beginning step salary schedule causes teachers to leave the district, resulting in a large number of vacancies, which has a very negative impact on student learning," James said.
As of Wednesday, CCSD had 78 job vacancies, according to its website.
Changing the salary schedule was necessary to attract and retain teachers, James said.
There are approximately 450 union members, and a majority are teachers.
Union representatives declined to comment about the presentation but provided The Daily Times a document in response to "recent pronouncements from CCSD" that address "disinformation and propaganda."
The response states CCSD denied a 3 percent raise for support staff through the entire bargaining process, but on July 16, the union was presented with an "all or nothing" packet and an arbitrary deadline.
"CCEA did not reject the 'offer,' but requested to meet twice to no avail," the response states.
The response also addresses the district's claim that the state education department has a mandatory deadline for setting salary schedules.
"Contracts can be issued with a disclaimer 'pending union negotiations' to indicate possible changes once an agreement is reached as has been done in the past," the response stated.
The document also claims Levinski made a false statement when he said the district's teachers and hourly employees are paid more at every step than other school districts in San Juan County.
The union claims that in a side-by-side comparison between Farmington's and CCSD's certified salary schedules, Farmington pays more at several steps than CCSD.
"Although most CCSD steps are higher than Farmington, the increase is so insignificant that it would fail to cover a month's travel expenses from Farmington, Cortez to Shiprock," the response states.Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @nsmithdt on Twitter.