Bargaining for a new contract has finally begun between the school board and the teachers’ union in Riverside Elementary School District 96.

The current contract expires on June 30.

Both sides met for the first time on March 25, followed on March 31 by a four-hour negotiating session at the Riverside Public Library. Representing the school board in the negotiations are Juliet Boyd, Rachel Marrello and Rich Regan. They are being assisted by District 96 Director of Academic Excellence Brian Ganan and David Sellers, the district’s interim director of finance and operations.

The teachers’ negotiating team is headed by Bill Howes, the president of the Riverside Education Council, which represents teachers, paraprofessionals and some other school employees in District 96.

Sessions started late in part because of a delay in getting help from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which is providing a facilitator to help with the negotiations.

The parties are using a collaborative negotiation process. Both parties were part of a joint training session in how to use the collaborative negotiations, which aim to foster cooperation and listening in the negotiations. 

“We’ve begun a process that is a very respectful process,” Regan said during an endorsement interview with the Landmark last month after the training had taken place, but before the formal start of negotiations. “I feel really good about this process.” 

Boyd said that current contract is outdated.

“What’s in the contract is not what’s actually happening,” Boyd said during the same interview. “It should set forth the roles; it should set forth how everything should run.”  

Boyd elaborated on that point during a candidate forum last month.

“As a lawyer, I’ve looked at contracts,” Boyd said. “This is probably one of the worst contracts I’ve ever seen. It refers to statutes that are out of date and there are some paragraphs in there that don’t even make sense.”

Boyd said one of her goals for a new contract is to maximize instructional time while still allowing time for teachers’ professional development. The school board negotiators are expected to press to have professional development take place outside the regular school day. Right now, students get out of school early on Monday so that teachers can have professional development.

Regan, who has experience in collective bargaining in his job as facilities manager the Lyric Opera, said that he expects the negotiations to produce a result that both parties can live with.

“Our motivation is to come out with a document that really works,” Regan said last month. “It’s not going to work if one side says, ‘We’re going to do it this way and we don’t care what you say.’ That’s not collective bargaining. We’re very confident we’re going to come out with a great document on the other side of this, and the teachers are going to just as happy.” 

Howes, the head of the teachers’ union, did not respond to a request for comment.