Budget Crisis Strains Relationships In Nampa School District
It’s been a tough year in the Nampa School District after a $5.1 million budget shortfall surfaced last August. That has led to deep cuts including a near elimination of money for substitute teachers. Now tension between the district and the teacher’s union is growing.
Mandy Simpson teaches math and coaches golf in Nampa. She's also the president of the Nampa Education Association. She’s been in the district almost ten years.
“It’s been a long history of collaboration and working together with the Nampa Education Association and the Nampa School District,” she says. “Now, not so much. Unfortunately it seems almost adversarial.”
Simpson says the rift began when Nampa’s new superintendent came on board. Last November Tom Michaelson, who retired to Nampa after a career as a superintendent in California agreed to lead the district when Nampa’s former superintendent resigned in the wake of the budget crisis. Michaelson says when he started he had a goal in relation to the teacher’s union.
“To be able to have a working relationship and hopefully a friendship that’s based on respect for each other’s position,” he says. He adds that’s gone as well as can be expected given the district’s difficult situation.
In December Nampa teachers were asked to volunteer for furlough days. More than half did. But some teachers, union members and non-members, have claimed they were coerced. The tension rose this month when the Nampa Education Association asked a judge to stop the furloughs. Their lawyer says a contract addendum the district had volunteers sign violates Idaho law. Simpson says all this might have been avoided with better communication but Michaelson refused or simply ignored requests to meet.
“You know it took three months for him to sit down and even have a conversation with us,” Simpson says.
Michaelson responds, “my initial charge I felt, was first of all getting a handle on the gravity of what the problems were financially. Unapologetically that’s where my energies went. Not that I tried to purposefully ignore them in any way at all.”
Negotiations for next year’s contract will start soon and union and district representatives will have to sit down together. Simpson and Michaelson are optimistic about that process saying it's an opportunity to move past their differences. But those negotiations likely won't be easy with the looming deficit and teacher pay making up the bulk of the budget.
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