Arbitration begins Thursday for the Juneau School District and its teachers, who have been stuck at impasse for months.
Negotiations started in January, when teachers were working on a one-year contract. That agreement came through a mediator after talks broke down last year.
In April the two sides declared impasse. Mediation failed and now two days this week have been set aside for arbitration.
The teachers’ one-year contract expired in June, though it’s still in force until a new agreement is reached.
Late last week, the district and Juneau Education Association went back to the bargaining table briefly. The district made an offer; JEA rejected it.
Teachers appeared in force at Tuesday’s school board meeting, and those testifying said the district has neglected its teachers. Floyd Dryden teacher Molly Box called it blatant disrespect.
“After meeting multiple times last year the district continued their take or leave it attitude refusing to budge on any monetary or non-monetary items,” Box said. “Not only is this disrespectful to our teachers, but the time wasted and the energy spent away from our students is atrocious. Our job is to educate not negotiate.”
Other teachers had harsh language for the administration and each time their comments were met with cheers that drowned out the board president’s gavel.
District superintendent Glenn Gelbrich painted a different picture about negotiations, including the most recent session.
“We had a good exchange of ideas and clarification of facts with the association representatives and Thursday we’ll present ideas and our proposals to an arbitrator. We’ll get an arbitrator’s decision, but there’s nothing that keeps us from continuing to talk beyond the meeting with the arbitrator,” Gelbrich said.
According to JEA, Juneau teachers with a master’s degree are paid less than their counterparts in Kodiak, the Mat-Su, and Anchorage. JEA argues that those districts place a higher priority on their teachers.
The arbitrator’s decision is not expected until December, but the two sides can negotiate while they wait.
Meanwhile, school principals and other administrators, represented by the Juneau School Administrators Association, have been working on a one-year contract extension that expired in June. The union recently notified the district that it’s time to begin negotiations. No starting date has been set.