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Hillsboro-Deering teachers union wins dispute with school board

The Public Employee Labor Relations Board found last week that the Hillsboro-Deering School Board committed unfair labor practices during negotiations for a new teachers contract that began last fall.

Negotiations to renew the contract that expired last Sunday first began in October. Members of both the school board’s and teachers union’s bargaining groups agreed to ground rules stipulating members of both parties would “recommend and advocate” for adoption of any signed tentative agreements. The rules also stated each party would have to vote within 15 days of reaching a tentative agreement. The school board violated those agreements when Chairman Richard Pelletier, a member of the negotiating team, failed to second a motion for the full board to vote on the contract last December, the ruling found.

The school board’s negotiating team included Assistant Superintendent Patricia Parenteau, the district’s interim business administrator and two board members. The union’s team included the union president and three others. Both sides also had attorneys. During negotiations, the school board’s team wanted to remove the “evergreen policy” from the contract, but the teachers union did not. No one from either side could be reached to explain the details of that policy.

The two sides reached a tentative agreement on a one-year contract in early December that still included the evergreen policy. At the school board’s board meeting later that week, Nancy Egner Denu, a member of the negotiating team, made a motion for the board to vote on the policy. No one, including Pelletier, seconded the motion. The board found Pelletier violated the agreement to advocate for a tentative contract. The board also failed to vote on the contract within 15 days because no one seconded the motion.

The Public Employee Labor Relations Board also found the school board violated a state statute that says employers must bargain in good faith.

“Once a tentative agreement was reached, the two School Board members on the Board’s negotiating team were obligated to actively support the tentative agreement through the process of ratification regardless of their personal feelings about the agreement,” the ruling states.

Under the ruling, the school board must cease and desist from further violations of bargaining in good faith, publish the labor relations board’s decision on the district’s website and in prominent places around the school, and take a vote as soon as possible on the contract or reimburse the union for its share of mediation expenses. The union also requested the board pay for its legal fees, but the ruling denied that request.

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or or on Twitter @kronayne.)

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