Fort Smith teach­ers vot­ing to fill panel spots

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - ARKANSAS - DAVE HUGHES

FORT SMITH — Vot­ing be­gins to­day by school dis­trict teach­ers to elect mem­bers to serve on the newly es­tab­lished per­son­nel and pol­icy com­mit­tee.

The com­mit­tee, or­dered by the School Board in Novem­ber to be formed to suc­ceed the Fort Smith Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion in rep­re­sent­ing dis­trict teach­ers, will con­trib­ute to the de­vel­op­ment of per­son­nel poli­cies and pro­vide in­put about other top­ics such as com­pen­sa­tion, ben­e­fits and cal­en­dar, in­for­ma­tion about the elec­tion on the dis­trict’s web­site said.

“The im­ple­men­ta­tion of the [com­mit­tee] will pro­vide a more au­then­tic chan­nel of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and process of col­lab­o­ra­tion with the ed­u­ca­tors that work ev­ery day to make our dis­trict a great place for kids,” Su­per­in­ten­dent Doug Brubaker said in an emailed state­ment Fri­day.

Ac­cord­ing to the elec­tion in­for­ma­tion the dis­trict pro­vided to teach­ers, the elec­tion will run to mid­night Fri­day.

The com­mit­tee will be com­posed of up to 38 mem­bers. Dis­trict spokesman Zena Feather­ston said 91 have signed up as nom­i­nees for po­si­tions on the com­mit­tee. Fri­day was the fi­nal day for bal­lot ap­proval, ac­cord­ing to the elec­tion sched­ule.

Brubaker said he was ex­cited to see the large num­ber of dis­trict em­ploy­ees par­tic­i­pat­ing in the elec­tion.

Each of the 19 el­e­men­tary schools, the Belle Point Cen­ter and the Pe­abody Ed­u­ca­tion Cen­ter will have one rep­re­sen­ta­tive on the com­mit­tee; each of the four ju­nior high schools will have two rep­re­sen­ta­tives; and each of the two high schools will have three rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Elec­tions will not be nec­es­sary at Bar­ling, Beard, Car­nall, Eu­per Lane, Orr, Pe­abody, Spradling, Tilles and Trusty el­e­men­tary schools be­cause only one per­son at each school filed for the elec­tion. Two filed at Chaf­fin Ju­nior High, elim­i­nat­ing the need for the elec­tion there.

Feather­ston said the need for no elec­tions in those schools will save the dis­trict some of the ex­pense of hold­ing the elec­tion, but she didn’t know Fri­day how much.

The dis­trict is pay­ing Amer­i­can Ar­bi­tra­tion As­so­ci­a­tion $8,000 to $9,500 to hold the ini­tial elec­tion, the dis­trict said. The elec­tion is a one-time cost for the dis­trict be­cause the com­mit­tee will set up its own pro­ce­dures for fu­ture elec­tions.

Most mem­bers of the com­mit­tee will be those who have teacher con­tracts with the dis­trict. There will be as many as three mem­bers ap­pointed as ad­min­is­tra­tion rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the com­mit­tee.

Feather­ston said Brubaker has des­ig­nated one of the three po­si­tions to be elected from non­cer­ti­fied and non­clas­si­fied dis­trict em­ploy­ees, such as nurses and speech lan­guage pathol­o­gists. Eight em­ploy­ees from that group have put their names up for elec­tion, she said.

Brubaker had not de­cided as of Fri­day how the other two ad­min­is­tra­tion spots would be ap­pointed, Feather­ston said.

Af­ter the elec­tion, ac­cord­ing to the school dis­trict, the com­mit­tee is sched­uled to hold its first meet­ing Feb. 28, at which the com­mit­tee mem­bers will elect a chair­man and sec­re­tary, sched­ule fu­ture meet­ings, de­cide on the fu­ture com­po­si­tion of the com­mit­tee and es­tab­lish op­er­at­ing pro­ce­dures.

The com­mit­tee will be in­volved in an on­go­ing ba­sis with such things as per­son­nel poli­cies that have to be up­dated be­cause of new leg­is­la­tion and for the res­o­lu­tion of key court cases, Brubaker said.

“The in­put of the [com­mit­tee] will be valu­able in mak­ing sure that the pol­icy de­vel­op­ment process un­folds in ways that keep [the school dis­trict] a great place to learn, grow and work,” he wrote.

The School Board passed a res­o­lu­tion at its Nov. 26 meet- ing re­quest­ing a waiver from the Arkansas Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion to im­me­di­ately form a per­son­nel and pol­icy com­mit­tee of cer­ti­fied staff to re­place the Fort Smith Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion in rep­re­sent­ing teach­ers.

The res­o­lu­tion said mem­ber­ship in the as­so­ci­a­tion, which has rep­re­sented Fort Smith teach­ers since 1970, had fallen to about 32 per­cent of the dis­trict’s teach­ers. The for­ma­tion of the per­son­nel and pol­icy com­mit­tee was re­quested to “dra­mat­i­cally in­crease cer­ti­fied staff rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the dis­trict.”

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