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Jeffco Schools to engage in open contract negotiations this year

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Contract negotiations between Jeffco Schools and its three employee associations will be open this year, said Ken Witt, school board president, at Thursday’s special meeting.

The school board had met in executive session to discuss negotiations just before the meeting.

Lisa Elliott, executive director for the Jefferson County Education Association, said their contract calls for bargaining to be open unless both parties agree to close negotiations.

“Most years we have opted to close bargaining so that the negotiators can be candid and work more efficiently,” she said.

“This year, our Representative Council, which is comprised of reps from every school, voted on December 10 to have bargaining open,” Elliot said. “This will allow our members and the public to listen to the discussion.”

Other items discussed at the Jan. 30 special meeting included policy changes, the 2014 budget survey, and recommendations to the Financial Oversight Committee.

Proposed policy changes include allowing any board member to visit any Jeffco school without a staff escort.

Board member John Newkirk stated that with the new policy board members would need to give a school advance notice of the visit, but that board members could be unaccompanied by any school staff while inside the school if they preferred.

The current policy calls for board members to be escorted by a district or school staff member while in schools.

Another proposed policy change is to extend public comment at board meetings to those who reside outside of Jefferson County. Public comment is currently restricted to Jeffco Schools students and their parents or guardians, all citizens who live within Jeffco's boundaries, and Jeffco Schools employees.

The board also listed topics they would like the Financial Oversight Committee to review. Those included advice from the committee about how to cover healthcare cost increases, recommendations about how to spend money in reserves and how the district credit rating would be affected, how charter school equalization fits into the broader picture of board priorities, capital construction needs, and costs for out-of-district placements and associated legal costs for special education students.

In other news, John Peery, Jeffco Schools Charter School Liaison, told the board that the district was in facilitation with Cornerstone Academy, whose application was denied last fall. Peery said Cornerstone had withdrawn its state appeal.

Facilitation is estimated to cost both parties one-third of what a state appeal would.

The process requires both parties to agree on a process to address the issues raised in the denial, come to agreement on a set of facts, and present that report to the board.

Peery said he hopes the report to the board will be the March agenda.