Westside Teachers Not Happy with Representation

August 16, 2004 – Posted at 4:08 p.m. CDT

Schools in Region 8 will be welcoming back students later this week.  But for one school in Jonesboro, teachers and administrators are still at odds over an employee organization.

Right now the halls are empty, but in a few days they'll be filled with kids.  Many students at Westside probably won't know about the controversy surrounding the school's employee organizations.

 “This type of activity or discussion will be kept away from our students.  We don't believe that our students deserve to be caught in the middle of this,” said Superintendent Dr. James Best.

Last spring, Retha Gipson and her fellow teachers formed the WEST organization, which stands for Westside Employees Standing Together.


“We were concerned over our salaries.  They are one of the lowest if not the lowest in the area and then we also had some issues with the hiring practices,” said Gipson.

The organization wants to replace the Personnel Policy Committee...a legally mandated committee, which serves as an advisory board.  But so far, the school board has refused to formally recognize WEST.

Gipson says the WEST organization is not a union, but it is based off of a union model.  She says the big difference between west organization and the PPC is negotiation power.

“We felt like this would enable us to have better lines of communication.  We felt like it would help to build teacher morale.  You know if they feel like people are listening to their issues and their concerns,” said Gipson.

Dr. Best admits that the PPC hasn't been working well for the class 3A school district, but doesn't think the union model, which is primarily used by the state's larger schools, would help the teachers.

“Drawbacks that we see to the union model is representation or fair representation for our classified.  Under the existing law, they have the ability to have their own committee and we feel like they can be represented more fairly,” said Dr. Best.

But both sides agree that the students are the bottom line, and when the bell rings Thursday morning, everyone should be ready to go.  The final outcome won't be known until later tonight. The school board meets at 7 'clock in the high school library and is expected to decline to recognize the organization.  Gipson says if that happens, the group will try again.