Pay increases, pilot part of proposed teacher contract deal

Pay increases, pilot part of proposed teacher contract deal

Michele Ellson

Alameda’s teachers will be getting the raises their union proposed last April under a tentative agreement they’ll be voting on next week, deal points obtained and released by a local blogger show. If approved by teachers and the Board of Education, the deal will cap two years of contentious negotiations whose closure required the assistance of a state legislator.

Neither side wished to offer additional contract details or comment on Wednesday.

"It has been AEA's position that the members should have the opportunity to read, understand, and vote on the agreement before releasing it to the public," Alameda Education Association president Gray Harris said.

Superintendent Kirsten Vital said she won't comment until March 15, when she anticipates posting an item on the contract for the school board's March 19 meeting agenda.

“We are respecting AEA’s ratification process and timeline,” Vital said.

The proposed contract would give teachers a retroactive 2.5 percent raise for the current school year and another 0.75 percent raise for 2013-2014, plus a one-time 1.25 percent pay bump, the blogger wrote. The school board will then decide before January 31, 2014 whether they can increase teachers’ pay another 1.75 percent.

If the board approves the additional increase, negotiations between the teachers union and school district leaders would be complete until November 2014. If not, negotiations would restart on January 31, 2014, and if an agreement is not reached, an impasse would be declared and state mediation sought, it says.

The proposed contract would also maintain class sizes in kindergarten through third grade at their current maximum of 25 students per teacher and would set up a 10-person committee to explore the possibility of a Professional Learning Community pilot. It also allows the district to submit proposed calendars for the next two school years to the teachers union for a vote.

The teachers union had requested a 4.5 percent raise this year, while district leaders have sought the right to keep K-3 class sizes where they are and to set up the Professional Learning Community pilot, which could see teachers at all the district’s schools collaborating on lesson plans and poring over test scores together in an effort to boost achievement, particularly of underperforming students.

Teachers are slated to begin voting on the agreement on Monday and to continue through Thursday, and if the contract is approved by teachers, the school board could vote to approve it the following week.

The agreement caps two years of acrimonious negotiations that saw the rejection of one tentative contract, two requests for state intervention, the release of dozens of teacher grievances and dueling press releases that were sometimes followed by teacher rallies at City Hall which grew to include parents, teachers from other school districts and members of other worker unions. Ultimately, it took the intervention of a state Assemblyman with ties to both sides to bring the negotiations to what many hope will be a successful conclusion.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta said this week that he had been talking to both sides “for some time” before being formally asked to mediate the dispute, an effort that began with a two-and-a-half hour meeting on February 24 and included an all-night bargaining session the following day. The accord was ultimately reached a few days later, on February 28.

A former deputy city attorney for the City of San Francisco whose parents were labor organizers, Bonta was a consistent labor advocate in his two years as Alameda’s vice mayor, and he won his Assembly seat with heavy union backing. He also knew Harris personally, as a parent at the elementary school where the union chief taught.

He had also forged close ties to schools leaders, working to help pass the district’s Measure A parcel tax, and joining a lawsuit the district helped draft that seeks to change the way the state funds schools.

While Bonta’s assistance in resolving the contract dispute may be unique, it’s not without precedent. Bonta’s predecessor in the Assembly, Oakland Deputy Mayor Sandré Swanson, was recently credited with helping to resolve a contract dispute at the Port of Oakland.

Neither side was willing to comment further on Bonta’s role in negotiating the deal, though both said they were grateful for his help.

“The teachers have built a strong relationship with Rob Bonta over the last several months,” Harris said in response to an e-mail from The Alamedan. “He is an advocate for teachers and we really appreciate all the time and effort he put in on our behalf.”

Vital called the contract deal fiscally sound, good for our employees and good for our students.”

Comments

Al Wright's picture
Submitted by Al Wright on Thu, Mar 7, 2013

I'm not sure I understand this at all. If "Vital called the contract deal fiscally sound, good for our employees and good for our students,” then why have we just suffered through two years of rancor, frustration, and uncertainty? Why wouldn't the district have offered this before the process was declared in impasse twice? It is, after all, apparently pretty much what the teachers have been asking for all along, isn't it? Probably not quite as 'clean' a proposal as they might have wanted, but substantially the same? Will there be apologies forthcoming to the teachers, students, and the community for this apparently unnecessary exercise? Will any heads roll as a result? Michele, will you report more fully on how this agreement was reached when the time is appropriate? Call me 'puzzled'.

Submitted by Michele Ellson on Thu, Mar 7, 2013

Hi Al: I will definitely be reporting more on this as additional details are released. I think it's probably fair to say the two things the district got from this are 25:1 through the end of Measure A for K-3 and a committee to discuss the Professional Learning Communities pilot, while teachers will get a raise if the deal is approved by union members and the school board. I anticipate writing more about this in a week or so, when deal details are released.

Submitted by Page Barnes on Thu, Mar 7, 2013

Al,

You seem to have forgotten that Prop 30 passed in November. Until Prop 30 passed, there was no way for the District to make the type of offer they can make now. I'm not sure apologies are due for not promising money the district didn't have.

Al Wright's picture
Submitted by Al Wright on Thu, Mar 7, 2013

Ms. Barnes, they declared an impasse twice in the last, what, 4 weeks? Well after November.

Submitted by Page Barnes on Thu, Mar 7, 2013

Gov. Brown didn't announce his budget until mid-Jan. So the district couldn't work with real numbers until then. Given that money was not the only issue, I'm not sure that taking six whole weeks to reach a deal after the numbers came out warrants a level outrage that would require apologies and people losing their jobs as you suggest. As for the declarations of impasse, the AEA withdrew the first and clearly there was no real impasse with the second because they reached a deal within days.