As we get back into the swing of things for 2018-2019, we wanted to review some policy discussions and district issues that boards and administrators should be mindful of as the school year begins.
You have no doubt read about the issues school districts faced this past year with student memorials. You can read our previous post on memorials here. We encourage your board to think about how it wants to respond to tragedy now, so it is not faced with hard decisions in the midst of a crisis.
Comparability Analysis and Negotiations
It’s never too early to set the table for negotiations (pun heavily intended). To enter negotiations with a clear, confident position the district should review where it’s at, in order to intelligently decide where it’s headed.
Negotiated Agreement. What have you agreed to? Have you agreed to anything that is unlawful? Have you left out any elements which are required? Is the agreement clear? Does it reflect your actual practices? In many cases a change to the agreement gives both sides a more accurate picture of what the agreement actually says. As the district and education change, these agreements need tune-ups and in some cases, an overhaul.
Array. You’re pretty sure you know your array. The district and local association have agreed to the array. The array is set. The array is good. BUT, is your array the one the Commission of Industrial Relations (CIR) will use if your negotiations reach an impasse? Maybe not. You can have your array checked by NorthStar or your school district’s attorney to make sure you’re negotiating with the right set of schools and the right set of numbers.
Comp Position. Once you have a correct array, does your district know how it compares to other schools in the array in terms of “comparability” used by the CIR? Do you know where you’re at in the 98% to 102% window? The board and administration should know what their maximum salary could be if negotiations reach an impasse and go to the CIR.
Facility use policy and application
Many districts allow the use of school facilities to outside groups that support students. From pee-wee wrestling to piano lessons, many community organizations will request access to the school’s buildings. There are two main issues that arise in these situations.
Equal Access. If you open the district’s facilities to one group, you likely open it to all groups. The Equal Access Act makes it unlawful for:
[A]ny public secondary school which receives Federal financial assistance and which has a limited open forum to deny equal access or a fair opportunity to, or discriminate against, any students who wish to conduct a meeting within that limited open forum on the basis of the religious, political, philosophical, or other content of the speech at such meetings.
Liability Under the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act. The Act preserves school districts’ immunity from claims that relate to the inherent danger of recreational activities and athletic contests, so long as no fee is charged. Club sport organizations can still collect donations, sell concessions, and charge a parking fee, but a direct admission charge will remove some of the school district’s immunity from a lawsuit.
If you are a KSB policy service subscriber you should have our facility use policy (3014) and the facility use applications/agreements. If you are unsure of your district’s policy or procedures surrounding facility use, you should contact your school district’s attorney. No matter what, you should review your policy now before the year starts to be sure it’s clear, lawful, and actually reflects your facility use practices for familiar and unfamiliar groups.
This is a bit of a grab bag of issues, but they share one common characteristic: if school boards address these issues head-on before the school year is fully underway, they will be better prepared to handle hard questions that arise throughout the year. If you have any questions about these issues don’t hesitate to contact our office.