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SHIPROCK — The Central Consolidated School District Board of Education accepted on Tuesday what the district is calling its "last best offer" to try to conclude a negotiation process that started last year with its employee union.

Board president Randy Manning, board vice president Adam J. Begaye, board secretary Christina J. Aspaas and board member Ruthda Thomas voted 4-0 to impose an offer submitted last week to the Central Consolidated Education Association. Board member Charlie Jones Jr. was absent from the special meeting.

Board members voted without discussion after a two-hour executive session at the district's administration complex in Shiprock.

In an interview after the meeting, Manning said the offer will be submitted to the union for its review and consideration. Its members can decide to accept or reject the offer, he said.

If the union rejects the offer then the matter would enter into arbitration but the monetary aspects — such as salary adjustments — would go into effect despite arbitration, Manning said. He could not comment on details of the offer because of the possibility of arbitration.

Ewa Krakowska, director of the National Education Association of Northwest New Mexico, and Union president Mel Sharp said after the meeting they were not sure what agreement the board accepted because no information was provided prior to the vote.

“We’re trying to figure out what they approved,” Sharp said.

Manning was named board president in March after board members selected new officers. Begaye was selected board vice president and Aspaas retained her position as board secretary.

Interim Superintendent Colleen Bowman said in an interview after the meeting, the offer was submitted to the union on April 19.

“I think it was a thorough review,” she said of the board’s action.

Bowman added that when she was appointed interim superintendent, she told board members she would be transparent about negotiations and offers made to the union, so they could make better informed decisions.

"I left it up to them,” she said.

Bowman also said she could not provide details about the "last best offer" due to possible arbitration. She and Manning said either side can make a decision on an offer without waiting for the other to issue a determination.

Krakowska said the most recent proposed collective bargaining agreement was given to the district by the union in February.

“We’re completely confused,” she said about the board’s action.

The union represents approximately 1,000 employees — both certified and non-certified positions — across the district, Krakowska said.

The last collective bargaining agreement was ratified on Aug. 20, 2013, by district and union officials.

It was in effect until June 30, 2015, and negotiations are supposed to start no later than March 15 of each year, according to the 2013 agreement

If the parties fail to reach and ratify a replacement agreement by June 30, 2015 then the agreement continues until a new agreement and ratification occur, the 2013 agreement states.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.

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