Williston School Board, WEA unable to compromise on remaining items; next meeting uncertain.

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 11:18 AM CDT
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WILLISTON, N.D. – The failure to come to an agreement on the four remaining terms left in teacher negotiations may soon result in an impasse according to the Williston Basin School Board.

The board stood strong on their package offer Tuesday night, which would keep reduction-in-force procedure a board policy rather than an agreement.

The Williston Education Association (WEA) refused the deal, stating that Reduction in Force procedure needs to be agreed upon to protect teachers from retaliatory measures.

Association negotiator Matt Liebel accused members of the board of going against what they said to WEA prior to being elected in December.

“We have five of the seven board members say they want an agreed-upon thing with RIF. Agreed-upon meaning they agree with the teachers. When we have five of those seven saying they want to support RIF and now they don’t, what happened?” said Liebel.

“We really feel that RIF is a policy. One of the primary roles of the school board is to make and develop policy. We are not going to hand over policy-making decisions in the district,” said board negotiator Chris Jundt.

The association attempted to make an agreement on Salary alone, but the board said the package deal is their final offer. When planning for next week’s meeting Chris Jundt reluctantly agreed to meet next week, but said he will be calling a board meeting to discuss where to go from here.

Regardless of what happens, the association will not agree to an impasse.

“From the board’s perspective, I certainly think we are at impasse. There’s fundamental differences on what we feel should be in the negotiated agreement and what WEA feels should be in the negotiated agreement,” said Jundt.

“WEA’s absolutely not wanting to go to impasse at all; it’s an unnecessary cost. If impasse is declared by the board, WEA will not declare impasse. WEA’s still absolutely ready to sit and discuss these issues,” said Liebel.

The board usually meets in executive session on Fridays to discuss negotiation plans.

If there is no agreement, North Dakota Century Code states teachers can not “receive less.” What that means in terms of reduction of force remains to be seen.

Liebel asked Jundt what that means to the board. Jundt responded by saying they are aware of century code but refused to explain further.

If an impasse is declared by the board, both sides will state their case in front of an independent committee and then the committee will make a recommendation to the board. The board then decides whether or not to follow the recommendation in a future meeting with the association.

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