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School board, unions talk behind closed doors

June 03, 1997

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

The Washington County Board of Education met in a closed session with representatives of its three employee groups Monday night to discuss the impact of its funding situation on contract negotiations.

School officials wanted to explain why the Washington County Commissioners' method of funding the school system next year limits their ability to negotiate multi-year wage increases, Schools Superintendent Wayne F. Gersen said.

The school board asked for $6.1 million in additional funding toward its proposed $104 million operating budget for 1997-98 but will get only $1.8 million more, Gersen said.

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The board also asked for $2.2 million outside the budget to be dedicated to upgrading technology in the school system, he said.

The commissioners are giving the school board $2.1 million in "one-time funding grants" that can be used for technology, Gersen said.

However, $750,000 of that money must be used to counter cuts in the operating budget, he said.

Because that money is allocated for one-time purchases outside the operating budget, it can't be used for personnel costs or counted on for the 1998-99 budget, Gersen said.

The commissioners' funding method is tying school officials' hands in contract negotiations, said Linda Barkdoll, director of human resources, who thought it was important to communicate the school board's dilemma to its employee groups.

Calling the special meeting was consistent with the board's "collaborative, problem-solving approach" to the negotiation process, said Barkdoll, who will succeed Gersen as interim superintendent later this month.

"We're trying to come together, not just take sides as foes," she said.

Representatives of the Washington County Teachers Association, Washington County Educational Classified Employees Association and Washington County Association of Supervisors and Administrators attended the meeting, which lasted just under 21/2 hours.

The board closed the meeting to the public and press based on a state code that allows collective bargaining and related discussions to be private.

Employee group representatives wouldn't comment as they left the meeting.

School officials said the meeting was productive. Barkdoll said she felt everyone left with an understanding of the situation.

The fact that all three employee groups took part in the process is a positive sign, said board member Andrew R. Humphreys.

Board Vice President Robert L. Kline said he hopes it will inspire employees to pack today's meeting between the County Commissioners and the school board.

The board will try to persuade the County Commissioners to include the one-time appropriation in the operating budget, Gersen said.

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