Fort Smith teachers voting to fill panel spots
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.”