LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - Friday, Aug. 10, approximately 2,000 Little Rock School District employees will decide how to handle a number of grievances with the Arkansas Department of Education.
On the table: walking out, as we've seen in other districts across the country.
"We don't come to the teaching profession for the big bucks,” said Little Rock Education Association (LREA) President, Teresa Knapp Gordon.
She said everything her members do is for the children. That's what has LREA in serious contention with the Arkansas Department of Education.
"Whenever you mistreat the teachers, or you don't honor them, it cycles down into the classroom,” Knapp Gordon said. “The kids feel that."
The matter at hand is the districts Personnel Policy Manual -- a document that contains the day-to-day operating procedures for employees of the district.
Two days before the start of the LRSD school year, and Knapp Gordon says the document, which was negotiated for 2.5 years, hasn't been signed by Education Chairman Johnny Key.
"The Personnel Policy Manual was written and agreed to by the teachers, and by the district. It was a promise. By Key not signing it, the promise has been broken,” Knapp Gordon said.
LREA, AED, and LRSD began negotiating the new manual after state takeover in 2015, when Key became the acting-school board. Before that point, the same contract had been in place since the 1960s.
"Everything they've asked of us, we have done,” Knapp Gordon said. ”For Key to refuse to sign the Personnel Policy Manual, and to treat the process as he has, is kind of a slap in the face to the teachers and to the association. There's no reason for it unless there's a bigger agenda in the works.”
"I signed off on all but a handful of those that need a little more work,” Key said. “There are some discrepancies, and some things that don't match up with other policies. As far as the policies themselves, they are approved."
Arkansas law states that must be done by Sept 15.
"It's there now. It's signed off,” he said. “I submitted that, returned that to the district this week, with the exception of those six, and I think that has some discrepancies that we need to revise."
The teachers said that if anything was signed, they weren't made aware.
"It would make the year go so much smoother if the personnel policy were signed and in place. Everybody would be on the same page. Everybody would know exactly what is expected, and we could operate without haveing to worry about having to take any action,” Knapp Gordon said.
Also weighing on teacher's minds is a worry that Key won't sign the PNA, or document that recognizes LREA's authority.
"We were asked to reverify our membership, which has never happened in the history of the association,” Knapp Gordon said.
Knapp Gordon says LREA is compiling the additional information requested by LRSD Superintendent, Michael Poore. The PNA, she said, expires Oct.31.
Key said he was unsure of his stance on the agreement right now.
"I wouldn't speculate right now, because that process of negotiating, we have a few months left before that takes place,” he said. “Mr. Poore hasn't reported, to me anyway, any of the conversations of possible changes that might need to be made. So I would just reserve any committment on that until after that process is complete."
While they may not agree on much right now, the Little Rock Education Association and the Department of Education do agree their discrepancies shouldn't affect the first day of school.
"What we will do, if it comes to that, we will do whatever we need to do to stand up for our children,” Knapp Gordon said.
Knapp Gordon says LREA's broader concern is that this is one step closer to the charterization of the entire district. Key says if they wanted to do that, they wouldn't have renewed the PNA since 2015.