Summit school board adopts bargaining agreement with new administrator association |

Summit school board adopts bargaining agreement with new administrator association

Summit School District Leadership Association formed in response to discussion about adding an at-will clause to administrator contracts

The Summit School District Administration Building in Frisco is pictured Nov. 12, 2020. The Summit School District Board of Education adopted a meet-and-confer agreement with school administrators at its Thursday, Oct. 28, meeting.
Liz Copan/For the Summit Daily News

The Summit School District Leadership Association was officially recognized as a bargaining unit at the school board’s Thursday, Oct. 28, meeting, and the board adopted a meet-and-confer agreement with administrators, meaning administrators now have a solid foundation for what their jobs are meant to look like and a commitment that the district will consult with them yearly to review it.

The association, which consists of district principals and assistant principals, formed in June and asked the board for recognition. The association formed not long after the board nearly added an at-will clause to administrator contracts, which would have allowed the district to terminate an administrator at any time without cause or notice. The at-will clause would have aligned the district with Colorado employment law, a priority of former Superintendent Marion Smith Jr. Several administrators spoke against the clause, leading the board to change course.

The leadership association, which is also a local chapter of the American Federation of School Administrators, outlined three primary goals:

  • Providing a collective leader voice in the district
  • Leading equity policies and practices
  • Ensuring fair treatment

For the past few months, administrators have been meeting with Interim Superintendent Roy Crawford and Chief Human Resources Officer Grant Schmidt to determine the best course of action. After a few board executive sessions with the school attorney, everyone agreed upon creating a meet-and-confer agreement since the principals aren’t looking for an intensive negotiation process.

“We could use that same ethos in conversation, in collaboration to actually develop an agreement, so that’s how we proceeded,” Crawford said.

The meet-and-confer agreement outlines the rights of the board and administrators, work schedules, leave and pay, benefits and the meet-and-confer procedures. The agreement is valid for the school year and will be evaluated on a yearly basis.

Crawford explained that this type of agreement is a softer, less formal document than a traditional collective bargaining agreement, but he said the most important aspect of it is that it can’t be changed unless both parties agree. Crawford said the preface of the agreement — which describes the process as collaborative, positive and supportive — shows the spirit with which everyone involved approached the process.

“I want to point out that this document represents a number of policies that we simply cut and pasted out of the policy manual and put into the document to memorialize those and to make them binding,” Crawford said.

Crystal Miller, principal at Summit Cove Elementary and president of the association, spoke during public comment to talk about how positive the experience of working through the agreement was for administrators.

“We really do want equity moving forward, we want student success, and we feel like when you have stable administrators that we can accomplish those things,” Miller said.

Snowy Peaks Principal Jim Smith echoed a similar sentiment and said working with Crawford and Schmidt was a great process.

“We know we pride ourselves at Summit School District on being risk-takers, being innovators and not accepting the status quo and realizing that there’s always room for growth,” Jim Smith said. “In order to do so, that stability, that feeling of confidence and collective ‘we’re in this together’ is so important.”

Regarding terminations and annual contract renewal, the document says an administrator’s employment will be recommended for an additional year unless the administrator is provided notification of possible non-renewal at the midyear evaluation conference. Crawford said that previously, an administrator wouldn’t find out until late May or early June.

“To me, and I think probably to the principals, that was the professional and ethical thing to do,” Crawford said about making the change. “… For them to get a 30-day notification — ‘Oh, by the way, you don’t have a job next year’ — to me was unethical and inappropriate.”

The agreement also states that administrators are subject to termination at any time for cause. If there is cause — which Crawford described as verifiable, inappropriate professional behavior — salary and benefits would cease at the time of termination. If terminated without cause, salary and benefits would continue until the end of the contract term.

Last school year, the district terminated at least four administrators, including Chief Human Resources Officer Trisha Forman, Transportation Director Lisa Casey, Frisco Elementary Principal Laura Rupert and Superintendent Marion Smith Jr. Casey and Rupert were not paid after their termination dates of March 3 and April 1, respectively. Forman and Smith Jr. were paid from their termination dates of Oct. 19, 2020, and May 28, respectively, through the end of the school year June 30, according to a records request filed with the district. Paying out Forman and Smith Jr.’s contracts cost the district about $116,580, not including paid out leave and severance.

The new administrator agreement applies only to principals and assistant principals, however.

The school board held two votes Thursday: one to recognize the association as a bargaining unit and a second to adopt the meet-and-confer agreement. Both passed unanimously. Board member Chris Alleman was not present at the meeting.

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