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Collaboration leads to tentative labor agreements

North Clackamas School District uses technique twice now

Leaders credited collaborative approaches to bargaining with helping the North Clackamas School District reach a tentative labor agreement last week with the North Clackamas Education Association, which represents teachers and other licensed staff.

This breakthrough follows a tentative agreement reached earlier in May with the Oregon School Employees Association Chapter 71, which represents classified employees such as secretaries, school bus drivers, custodians, food service, instructional assistants and maintenance.

Leadership from the associations and the district credited the collaborative negotiating process now employed in the district for helping reach the agreements.

In the traditional 'position/proposal-based' process, the parties usually identify the issues for bargaining and then exchange and discuss proposals in a process that can create an adversarial relationship between the parties.

In the collaborative approach, participants focus on interests rather than positions. Participants are expected to think systemically, respect the role and responsibilities of others, explore options, then meet interests of all participants, and use consensus.

Details of the agreements will be released with approval from the School Board and the membership of each of the associations.

'In these challenging times, it is especially gratifying to have these professionals that we work with participate in a collaborative process,' said Superintendent Tim Mills.

'If you can work together at a time when the state is experiencing economic crisis, it shows North Clackamas is a leader,' said Deb Barnes, president of the teachers association. 'This approach enables all participants to be part of important conversations, sharing stories from the educators experience, along with understanding the big picture view of school board members and administrators.'

Barnes said the process was thorough, but worth it in the long run. The association and the district plan to use this approach on all issues.

'For a second time in two years OSEA and the district have used a process called interest-based strategies,' said Patrick Morgan, OSEA vice president. 'In light of the gloomy economy and tight budgets these past year bargaining using the IBS process gives us a sunshine of hope and trust with the district leadership.'

The memberships of both associations are expected to vote on June 12. The School Board is expected to consider ratification at its June 21 meeting.