Collaborative Conferencing

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Seemingly every year we have to revisit the issue of collaborative conferencing for stakeholders and policymakers. The initial training in the principles and techniques of interest-based collaborative problem-solving for use in collaborative conferencing pursuant to this part was initially to be developed by the Tennessee Organization of School Superintendents in conjunction with representative organizations of school leaders and administrators and professional employees' organizations. The Tennessee School Boards Association subsequently conducted the training in 2011. Representatives of Professional Educators of Tennessee, TOSS, TSBA, and the teacher’s union all participated in this training. A detailed report was sent to the Tennessee General Assembly on the activities of the training and participants in 2012.

Collaborative Conferencing is the process by which local boards of education and their professional employees meet, either directly or through representatives designated by the respective parties, to confer, consult, and discuss matters relating to certain terms and conditions of professional service as specified by the passing of the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act. The process of collaborative conferencing includes the exchange of information, opinions, and proposals among the conferencing parties, as well as the use of the principles and techniques of interest-based collaborative problem-solving. 

The term "interest-based collaborative problem-solving" is not defined by the new law. However, interest-based collaborative problem-solving is an increasingly popular method of multiparty consensus-building negotiation. It is based upon mutual interests and respect among the parties, jointly identifying problems, the open, free exchange of information, nurturing creativity in the generation of options, and a good-faith, non-adversarial approach to solving problems using agreed- to criteria. This is intended to lead to an agreement between the parties based upon consensus and mutual gain. In the perfect world all parties work together, and all members of the collaborative conferencing teamwork toward a common objective in unity. Professional Educators of Tennessee fervently supports the right of educators to discuss working conditions and salary with their employers. 

In collaborative conferencing local boards are required to address: Salaries or wages; Grievance procedures; Insurance; Fringe benefits (not to include pensions or retirement programs of the Tennessee consolidated retirement system or locally authorized early retirement incentives); Working conditions, except those working conditions that are prescribed by federal law, state law, private act, municipal charter or rules and regulations of the State Board of Education, the Department of Education or any other department or agency of state or local government; Leave; and, Payroll deductions (except with respect to those funds going to political activities). 

Subjects prohibited from conferencing include: Differentiated pay plans and other incentive compensation programs, including stipends, and associated benefits that are based on professional employee performance that exceeds expectations, or that aid in hiring and retaining highly qualified teachers for hard-to-staff schools and subject areas; Expenditure of grants or awards from federal, state or local governments and foundations or other private organizations that are expressly designed for specific purposes; Evaluation of professional employees pursuant to federal or state law or State Board of Education policy; Staffing decisions and State Board of Education or local board of education policies relating to innovative educational programs under § 49-1-207; innovative high school programs under Title 49, chapter 15; virtual education programs under Title 49, chapter 16; and other programs for innovative schools or school districts that may be enacted by the general assembly; All personnel decisions concerning assignment of professional employees, including, but not limited to, filling of vacancies, assignments to specific schools, positions, professional duties, transfers within the system, layoffs, reductions in force, and recall. No agreement shall include provisions that require personnel decisions to be determined on the basis of tenure, seniority or length of service; and, payroll deductions for political activities.
The law was very clear on deadlines and specific dates. The submission (by fifteen percent (15%) or more of the professional employees) of a written request to conduct collaborative conferencing with the board of education, must be done not before October 1 and no later than November 1. The selection and appointment of the professional employee and board of education representatives must be done no later than December 1. The transmission to the board of the confidential poll results and the names and positions of the appointed representatives must be done by January 1. This is the law. If the law needs to be changed, all groups should work together through the Tennessee General Assembly to make the appropriate changes. 

All educators and all professional employee organizations have the same rights under PECCA. The school board does not have to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), and the MOU should be “prepared jointly” according to the law. We would suggest that putting some of these items into Board Policy might actually lead to more consistent policy and better working conditions than an MOU that would expire on a specific date. The law also mandates that any items that require funding cannot become effective “until the local funding body has approved such funding in the budget.” 

The Tennessee General Assembly was clear in 2011 that they wanted to get politics out of our public schools while supporting teachers’ rights to fight for higher wages and better working conditions. The PECCA legislation made clear that directors may communicate with teachers on the subjects of collaborative conferencing through any means, medium, or format the director chooses. Legislators had anticipated that increased collaboration would benefit the women and men in our classrooms with better working conditions, improved dialogue and mutual respect thus benefitting all of our students. There is still work left to do to accomplish this challenging objective.

JC Bowman
Executive Director of Professional Educators of Tennessee


Bravo, Robin Smith

We Are Not Doing Enough To Help Our Troubled Kids

Roy Exum: The Saturday Funnies


Re: The Women's Rally at Miller Park: We need more leaders like Robin Smith . George Mayo (click for more)

Suicide in teens is on the rise. What is going on and where are we slipping up? We find that it is more important to discuss politics, than it is to discuss children taking their own ... (click for more)

NOT ALL ATHLETES ARE DUMB Many in our new generation may not know some of these former professional athletes but I remember them all. Back in the day, it was never hard to get a priceless ... (click for more)


Opinion

Bravo, Robin Smith

Re: The Women's Rally at Miller Park: We need more leaders like Robin Smith . George Mayo (click for more)

We Are Not Doing Enough To Help Our Troubled Kids

Suicide in teens is on the rise. What is going on and where are we slipping up? We find that it is more important to discuss politics, than it is to discuss children taking their own life. Bullying leads to depression, isolation, social media plays a big role in bullying, and these warning signs can lead to suicide. You cannot go on social media and not ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Chattanooga Temps To Dip Into The Low 20s For Several Days

After temperatures mild enough to make the forsythia bloom and the daffodils rise, Chattanooga will face mercury dips into the low 20s for several days. The low for Sunday night is set to be around 20 degrees. The sub-freezing weather is due to continue through Thursday morning when a slight warming trend begins. Here is the latest forecast: Tonight Mostly clear, ... (click for more)

Protestors Try To Drown Out Rep. Robin Smith At Women's Rally At Miller Park

Some protestors tried to drown out Rep. Robin Smith at the Women's Rally at Miller Park on a wet Saturday. The Hixson Republican mainly spoke about a Chattanoogan named Abby Crawford Milton, who in 1920 played a pivotal role in securing women the right to vote. Through protest and lobbying, Ms. Milton convinced enough Tennesseans to support women’s suffrage, thus making the Volunteer ... (click for more)

Sports

Lady Mocs Stun League-Leading Furman

Chattanooga’s Lady Mocs won a big basketball game on Thursday night when they beat Wofford in a big Southern Conference game at McKenzie Arena. These same Lady Mocs won an even bigger conference game on Saturday as they rallied to beat Furman. Chattanooga shot an impressive 59.6 percent from the field in Thursday’s win. They weren’t able to match that on Saturday, but the ... (click for more)

Vandy Fails To Hit A 3 For First Time Since 3 Point Line Launched; Vols Win 66-45

Vanderbilt, on its home court on Saturday night, failed to connect on a three-pointer for the first time since the 3-point play went into effect in 1986. Tennessee hit one, and won 66-45. Prior to the contest, only Vanderbilt, Princeton and UNLV could boast of hitting at least one trey in each game for the last 34 years. The Commodores went 0-25. Jordan Wright had one swish ... (click for more)