Union brings its case to the board

Chuck Kajer, Managing Editor

Members of Service Employees International Union Local 284, which represents paraprofessionals, food service and transportation employees in the New Prague Area School District, brought their case directly to the New Prague Area School Board Monday.

Speaking during the open forum portion of the meeting, Chris Conry, contract organizer for the union, said members were concerned about some of the concessionary proposals the school board has put to the three negotiating groups.

In an open letter to the board, members said they are frustrated by the length of the negotiations and asked the board to reevaluate its position on the concesionnary proposals.

Conry said that the union feels a quick settlement is good, but a good settlement is better.

The leaders of each of the three groups stepped forward to briefly explain some of their concerns. Mary Lee Berg, representing paraprofessionals, said her group had filed for mediation. Lori Wooten, with the food service union, said there is great concern over the two-tiered medical benefit, where new employees would not get the same benefits as existing employees. Jay Novotny, representing the custodians, said the union is concerned that they are paying more out-of-pocket for health coverage than teachers and administrators.

Strategic Planning

The board heard proposals from two firms hoping to assist the district with its long-term strategic planning. The district last went through the process in 2002, bringing forth a plan that led to the construction of two new elementary schools and expansion of the high school.

Both firms have a long history of working with the district. Wold Architects built the current high school, which opened in 1998, and also oversaw the expansion that was completed last year. KKE Architects worked with the district on its last strategic plan and also oversaw construction of Eagle View and Raven Stream elementary schools as well as the transformation of the former intermediate school into Special Education, Community Education, Operations, Administration facilities as well as classrooms for sixth graders moving from the middle school building.

The Wold team touted its history with the district and its experience with other nearby districts, such as Prior Lake and Shakopee. They talked about the increasing importance of security in buildings and recommended the district organize a long-range planing committee that includes a number of stakeholders in the district.

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