Steamboat Springs bargaining team members establish public meeting norms
Steamboat Springs — Collaborative bargaining teams for the Steamboat Springs School District on Tuesday discussed new norms for bargaining meetings now that the Steamboat Springs School Board has decided to make the meetings public.
The School Board voted Oct. 13 to make CBT meetings open to the public, anticipating the passing of Proposition 104, a ballot measure that if passed will make the meeting public in January.
Bargaining team members, which include teachers, administrators, other staff members and a board representative, had various concerns about how public bargaining meetings would work.
“We need to figure out what’s going to work with Steamboat Springs,” said Eric Hansen, a UniServ director with the Colorado Education Association and a facilitator for collaborative bargaining.
Maintaining confidentiality and controlling what is communicated to the public was a concern for Steamboat Springs High School math teacher Clint Koehler.
Koehler questioned whether the group could ask for the public and media to maintain confidentiality after observing meetings and to not return if they didn’t follow the guidelines.
Superintendent Brad Meeks said the media would be able to attend the meetings and report what they wished and that the CBT wouldn’t be able to control that.
“Obviously, the process is changing and that’s why we’re here,” Koehler said.
Steamboat Springs Education Association President Carol Harris asked whether the CBT group could continue to distribute its written communication after the meeting and let the media report as they wished without offering additional comments from members outside the meetings.
“This is a whole new experience that no one has dealt with,” Harris said.
Board Chairman Roger Good said he thought the media’s role in public bargaining might be getting overthought and that as a board member he had good communication with the media and hasn’t been contacted excessively for comments.
“I believe the media has been very respectful of everyone’s time,” Good said. “It’s been a much smaller issue than what’s being discussed right now. It’s not a big deal.”
One team member suggested that the CBT might want to have a designated spokesperson to talk with the media and others.
After an informal vote, CBT members decided many already thought having one designated person to speak wasn’t a good idea.
During the first hour of the all-day meeting, team members came up with a tentative list of norms for how public bargaining would work.
These included that observers would be listenera, not participants, and they should respect the work of individuals and the team. Visitors also will remain in designated areas, they will listen to learn and understand, there will be no audio or video recording and visitors will be asked to sign in and receive a copy of the norms at each meeting.
Good said the group should consider moving the meetings to a time more convenient for the public and staff not on CBT to attend.
“As we move toward open, I think the time of the meetings becomes critical,” Good said. “I think there’s a lot of teachers that might want to sit in on this but they can’t if it’s done during the school day.”
Good said other public bodies meet in the evenings outside of the workday.
Koehler said that moving the meetings actually might discourage teachers from coming or participating in CBT because the meetings would be happening after a full workday.
“Moving could take teachers out of it more,” Koehler said.
Hansen and board and district facilitator Larry Nisbet said the discussion about moving the meetings would be left for when the CBT is discussing its own bargaining norms, not specifically the new public norms.
Meeks said some of the new norms probably would warrant further discussion.
“We’re probably going to have to revisit our norms a few meetings in to see what’s working,” Meeks said.
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