Following what lead negotiators called a “difficult process,” an agreement between McPherson USD 418 and the McPherson Education Association has been reached.

“This has been a difficult, arduous journey, and much has been learned throughout the year. While neither side ever intended for negative, divisive tones to emerge, we regretfully acknowledge what has occurred,” wrote Shelly Cooper Bahome, MEA representative, and Shiloh Vincent, USD 418 representative, in a joint statement. “It caused a lot of doubt, speculation, and distrust in our district and community. We are, however, encouraged by this agreement. This agreement represents teamwork during a challenging time. Moving forward, we know that transparency, trust, and authentic collaboration will ensure USD 418: McPherson continues to be a great place for students, staff, families, and our community.”

Negotiations had reached an impasse, and outside assistance was brought in by the Kansas Department of Labor. A three day public hearing was completed Feb. 14. The fact-finding is a non- binding process where the impartial, neutral fact-finder investigates the negotiation leading to impasse, and submits a “report” defining the disputed issues, sets out the factual elements involved, and provides non-binding “recommendations” for the parties to consider.

The McPherson Education Association and Board of Education bargaining teams then met on Monday in an open meeting at Eisenhower Elementary School to resume negotiations and work towards reaching a resolution.

Henry R. Cox, Kansas Department of Labor, was retained as a fact finder and a hearing occurred to try and move the process forward.

The agreement is now subject to ratification votes — a staff vote is scheduled for March 5 and 6, and a Board of Education vote slated for March 9.

The educator’s association was seeking an increase of $2,538 to base pay, which the district stated was unaffordable — Cox stated the same when offering a smaller number as workable. Cox offered a range of $1,200 to $1,400 as an overall base salary increase and acknowledged that the district needs to maintain cash reserves.

In his report Cox indicated that the budget was sufficiently malleable to find additional money for compensation of teachers. If ratified, the agreement will add $1,400 to the base teacher salary – moving it from $35,962 to $37,362.

According to Cox’s report, The last bargaining agreement expired on June 30, 2019. The MEA and district exchanged and negotiated various proposals to change certain economic and non-economic provisions in the 2018-19 PNA, and to change the terms of compensation for the 2019-20 PNA using its “step-schedule.” Both parties proposed a “raise” in compensation.

However, a consensus was reached to allow the MEA to conduct a “ratification vote” despite the

concern by the MEA negotiating team that the proposed salary raise was insufficient.

That vote happened on August 4, 2019, and the represented employees voted

down the proposed agreement.

On Aug.12, 2019, the Board approved wage and salary increases for all District

employees, except for MEA represented employees, pending further negotiations.

The MEA and the District meet in negotiations for three more sessions, on Aug. 27,

Septr.4, and Sept. 18. The compensation issues were not resolved and the MEA

negotiation team indicated that it would not take the District’s last proposal to the members

for a ratification vote.

The following day, Sept. 19, MEA and the District submitted a joint notice of

“impasse” to the Kansas Department of Labor. The KDOL assigned a mediator, with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to mediate the case.