The first version of the employee handbook for the Ashland school district was created with extensive input from members of the Ashland Federation of Teachers (AFT local 1275) and the Ashland Federation of Paraprofessionals (AFT local 4232), with representatives of each union sitting on a handbook committee with the administration. However, the following year, union members were surprised to see substantial changes made without any opportunity for employee input. Members of both locals met to discuss the issue, and decided to organize their coworkers and take the issue to the next district school board meeting, where they would petition the board to re-form the handbook committee as a permanent working group.
Building reps from the teacher and PSRP locals reached out to their coworkers and asked them to attend the next school board meeting in support of the handbook committee proposal. On the night of the meeting, despite cold temperatures and heavy snow, the board room was packed with support staff and teachers as special education assistant Eric Morud and Spanish teacher Anne Chartier spoke to the board about the importance of meaningful employee input into the handbook. “We wish to see the best policies enter the handbook,” said Morud, “policies which don’t simply better our work environment, but enable a scholastic environment in which our students will succeed.” In her comments, Chartier said that an open handbook process would display “core values that we work to instill in our students: cooperation, fairness, and democracy. Our practices as a district ought to embody the ideals that we want to teach our students.”
Board members were receptive to the idea, and voted to add the topic to the January meeting’s agenda, which was also well-attended by members of both unions. At that meeting, the board voted unanimously to reinstate the handbook committee for the 2016-17 year. Shortly following that meeting, the administration reached out to union leadership to officially form the committee. “I think we made a strong statement to the board” said Morud. “They saw that members of both AFT-Wisconsin locals expect a voice in our workplace. My fellow members and I are looking forward to having a real say in next year’s handbook.”