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12/4/2012 2:28:00 PM
Teachers press Williams School District officials for more input
Williams Education Association representatives want school board to adopt a meet and confer committee as district policy
Marissa Freireich

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Williams teachers want to be heard.

Ann Wells, vice president of the Williams Education Association (WEA), urged the Williams Unified School District (WUSD) Governing Board to adopt a meet and confer policy in a presentation at the Nov. 28 special meeting.

The policy would foster open communication between teachers and the administration.

"What meet and confer does is we work with the administration to develop joint recommendations in policies, salaries, compensation, benefits and budgeting for the board's consideration," Wells said.

Under the proposed policy, the superintendent, principal and WEA members would make up the meet and confer committee. Additional members could be added during the budgeting process. Members would meet at least 4 times per year.

Wells presented the board with a petition with 54 signatures from teachers and staff members who support the adoption of a meet and confer policy.

"We're basically here tonight because the administration has not recognized us and is refusing to meet with us," Wells said, adding that communication was never an issue in past years.

After the meeting, Melissa Ellico, WUSD business manager, responded by saying the administration meets with the WEA president, the leadership team, department chairs and individual employees.

Wells said about four or five years ago, the committee asked the board to adopt an agreement, but after reviewing it with their attorney the board decided not to adopt it.

"We're merely asking for the opportunity to continue a positive framework for communication," Wells said.

Board members are unsure of whether there ever was a formal meet and confer policy in place.

Rachel Savage, WUSD superintendent, said she does want to collaborate and she appreciates the efforts of the WEA. However she said like everything she does as superintendent, she wants to follow the correct procedures.

"I look at policy and I want to make sure I'm doing it right so I don't make a mistake," she said.

Since there is no policy in place, Savage wants to discuss the meet and confer policy at WUSD's comprehensive policy review with the Arizona School Boards Association (ASBA). The review will possibly take place in February.

"What I was hoping was that we waited until then so I could get a better understanding and get some guidance from ASBA as to how would be the best way to move forward and what are other districts doing policy wise," she said.

During the meeting, board member Herman Nixon said the board was engaging in too much discussion for a presentation.

"We're supposed to have a presentation and this is getting into a conversation," he said. "I would suggest let's put it on the agenda to talk about."

Board member David Nenne said that will allow the board to consider the proposed policy.

"In the meantime I would just encourage the entire administration to openly communicate with staff at any level and every level as much as possible," he said.

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