SCS looks at negotiating without hired guns


By David Avitabile

After heated exchanges and a closed-door session Wednesday evening, negotiations between Schoharie Central School District and its teachers are back on track.
A 20-minute private meeting was held between school board members and members of the teachers’ negotiating team last week after a long discussion on whether members of the team were given an offer to conduct talks with the administrators and lawyers––“hired guns”––from both sides.
Superintendent Brian Sherman and lead negotiator Ron Mastin each said the short executive session was productive.
Mr. Mastin described the executive session meeting as “very positive.”
“I believe progress was made in understanding statements made by both sides,” Mr. Sherman said.
Both sides, Mr. Sherman said, are looking at the possibility of negotiating without the “hired guns.”
Actual contract negotiations did not occur during the meeting, he added.
Mr. Mastin did not comment on the negotiations, as per the policy of the policy of the negotiating team.
After the closed-door meeting, board President Chris Spies said it was a “productive and interesting” talk and he expected progress.
The discussion of negotiating without the administrators and lawyers was broached in late September by former teacher Paul Sherman, who retired in June.
At that time, school board members said the concept of negotiating without administrators and lawyers was brought up and rejected by the unions.
Paul Sherman said he would talk to teachers.
Mr. Sherman returned last week, along with about 30 staff members, many wearing dark blue and white Schoharie Teacher Association Proud Member shirts.
He said he had spoken to many teachers and they said no such offer was made.
Mr. Sherman asked board members to whom the offer was made.
Mr. Spies said that if the board was incorrect that the offer was made and rejected, it would stand corrected.
He said that he would check the board’s records and get back to Mr. Sherman.
The offer, Mr. Spies, is still there.
“The district stands ready to discuss it,” he said.
Board member Bill Schlieder said it was brought up at a negotiating meeting and it was “soundly rejected.”
Members of the negotiating team said the offer was not discussed at the negotiating table.
Mr. Schlieder said that option was discussed with both unions and both negotiating teams turned it down.
Board member Mark Quandt said he would welcome freer negotiations, without the “hired guns.”
Though he said he was not comfortable discussing the negotiations in public, Mr. Spies said board members would discuss having talks without the lawyers.
Mr. Spies said he believed that an offer was made to the bargaining unit but teacher Laura Reinhart said, “We never received any offer like that. I don’t know how to make it clearer.”
The teachers’ agreement expired in June 2007.
A mediation session was scheduled for Thursday afternoon but was canceled by the mediator due to a personal issue, the Superintendent said.
Another mediation session is planned for October 27.
The teachers’ bargaining unit declared an impasse in May which prompted the mediation process.