Teacher contract negotiations were on Wednesday’s Ketchikan School Board agenda only as an executive session, but the issue was the sole topic of public comment.
Sarah Campbell is vice president of Ketchikan Education Association, which represents various bargaining groups including teachers. She told the board that KEA members took a vote this week.
“Eighty-nine percent of Ketchikan Education Association members voted. Of those 89 percent of those who voted, 94 percent voted no-confidence in Superintendent Robert Boyle’s leadership of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District,” she said.
Boyle is one of the district’s contract bargaining team members.
Campbell told the board that the two teams returned to the bargaining table Tuesday, but the district team would not discuss salary or health insurance, which are the two main sticking points.
Campbell said the board announced at its previous meeting that it had given direction regarding those two big issues.
“Every time our team brought those up: ‘We’ll talk about that later.’ It was brought up again: ‘We’ll talk about that later.’ Finally it was brought up again. And the response was, ‘It’s our understanding those are headed to arbitration,’ and they needed more direction from the board on how to proceed,” she said.
Teachers are working under a contract that expired at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.
Several other district teachers also spoke to the board about teacher contract negotiations, and the need to find resolution.
In an email sent to local media Wednesday evening, Campbell reported that the two sides were able to find common ground Tuesday on smaller issues, such as sick-days, personal leave and extra-duty language.
The board entered into executive session to discuss negotiations about 8:30 p.m., estimating the closed-door session would last about an hour. Board chair Kim Hodne said he the board would find out what happened.
“I thought that direction was good; we were all on the same page,” he said. “I believe we’ll have a lot of hard questions, good answers, and continue to move this process forward.”
At the time of this report, the board had not completed the executive session.
Also on Wednesday, the school board heard a brief update about an investigation into the district’s actions related to a former teacher charged with sexual assault.
Hodne said he received an email from district administrators about the investigator’s first visit. Eleven people were interviewed over two days, and the investigator will return Sept. 24th for another two-day visit and interviews.
Doug Edwards was the longtime culinary arts teacher at Ketchikan High School. He retired at the end of last school year, and was arrested soon after on charges of sexual abuse of a minor. The charges state he molested a 14-year-old girl on multiple occasions, including at the school.
Since then, others have come forward and said they had similar experiences, reported them to district officials and nothing was done. The investigation will look into whether district officials acted inappropriately.
The next Ketchikan School Board meeting is Sept. 26.