Thompson Gears Up for the Final (?) Battle

We’ve talked an awful lot about Thompson School District recently. And why wouldn’t we? The district and its reform majority are, after all, at the very forefront of Colorado’s ongoing—and increasingly nasty—education reform wars. The board’s attempt to build a smarter, better union contract that does right by both its students has been met with stiff resistance from both the Thompson Education Association and its big political brother, the Colorado Education Association.

First CEA stepped into the fray by pushing a phony petition designed to block an attempt at providing the district’s negotiating team with written guidance on how to proceed. Shortly thereafter, the board rejected a laughably bad attempt at a tentative agreement. The negotiating teams were sent back to the table to take another stab at the contract on May 12. The rejection of the first tentative agreement was quickly followed by two relatively small, sadly misinformed student “rallies” not entirely dissimilar to those we saw in Jefferson County last fall.

It’s safe to say that things haven’t been pretty in Thompson. Tonight, it all comes to a head. The negotiating teams have presumably presented a new tentative agreement to the board for review, and a vote on that agreement will be taken at a special meeting at 5:30 this evening. The regular board meeting will occur immediately afterward, and the agenda for that meeting includes discussions on charter funding equalization and the district’s budget.

Tonight’s meeting in Thompson will go one of two ways:

  1. The board could vote to accept the new tentative agreement. This option, of course, assumes that the negotiating teams actually came up with reasonable solutions to issues like the number of student contact days, special union access to district facilities and communications, exclusive representation rights, and a pay-for-performance pilot. I do not have high hopes.
  2. The board could vote to reject the new tentative agreement. At this point, Thompson will become the first major district to end its collective bargaining contract since Douglas County in 2012. A great deal of fear mongering by reform opponents notwithstanding, that shift has not resulted in the prophesied “mass exodus” of great teachers. If Thompson were to vote down its agreement, it would join nearly 80 percent of other Colorado school districts that have no collective bargaining agreement, thus becoming the state’s 140th non-union school district.

If the district takes the first path, I fear that Thompson will quickly slip back into the status quo that has prevailed there for 37 years. If they stand their ground and take the second, Thompson has a real opportunity to make meaningful changes for both its students and its teachers.

Either way, tonight’s meeting will be a fiery one. If you want to attend in person, tickets will be handed out at 4:30 this afternoon. If you’d rather watch from the comfort (and safety) of your own home, the meeting can be live streamed here. If you’d rather just catch up on the action tomorrow, you can always watch a recording of the meeting on this page once it’s available.

You can bet this little guy will be watching with rapt attention, and will have a full report for you tomorrow.