District 11 and teachers’ union continue to negotiate contract

Anoka-Hennepin District 11 and Anoka Hennepin Education Minnesota, the teachers’ union, have met nine times to negotiate their 2013-2015 contract.

The end is not in sight.

The previous contract was approved by the school board Oct. 24, 2011, which is relatively early, according to Paul Cady, general counsel for the district and the district’s lead negotiator.

Neither Cady nor Julie Blaha, AHEM president, was able to forecast when the contract might be ratified.

“I think it’s still a little early to put any predictions on that,” Cady said.

Blaha said it would be “at least a couple” more sessions.

The union’s goals, most generally, are to “increase salary, maintain employee benefits, improve retirement and severance benefits, improve contract language, improve compensation for extracurricular and extra service agreements, achieve improved working conditions and achieve parity with E-12 working agreement,” according to a negotiations goals document available on AHEM’s website.

A list of AHEM’s more specific requests can be found on the union’s negotiations blog: www.ahemnegotiationsnews.blogspot.com

One concern of AHEM is that no school board member sits on the district’s negotiation team. Jeff McGonigal and Mary Wolverton, associate superintendents; Director of Labor Relations and Benefits Brandon Nelson; and Jackson Middle School Principal Tom Hagerty join Cady on the district’s team.

Blaha said that when the decision-makers, school board members, aren’t at the table, it can be problematic.

From the district’s perspective, negotiations are going well, Cady said.

“Our goals are always to try and reach a settlement that’s fiscally responsible and ultimately benefits the students,” he said.

By law, the bargaining sessions between the district and AHEM are public, but this is the first year that AHEM has provided detailed updates and reached out to members, asking them to attend if interested, according to Blaha.

Anywhere between 25 and 80 of the union’s nearly 3,000 members have attended each session, said Blaha, who is one of nine on the negotiating team led by Paul Goupil, a teacher at Coon Rapids Middle School.

“Bargaining in private gets kind of lonely,” she said.

Olivia Koester is at [email protected]