School district faces fresh pay issue

School district faces fresh pay issue

Michele Ellson

Alameda’s schools leaders are facing a fresh teacher contract issue this fall: Whether to approve a fresh raise for teachers that would take effect next July – or face the possibility that the contract could end up back in the hands of a mediator.

The contract approved at the end of February offers a 2.5 percent permanent raise that was retroactive to July 2012 and an additional raise of 0.75 percent for the 2012-2013 school year that was concluding as it was inked. Teachers got an additional 1.25 percent raise for this school year alone.

The school board has until January 31, 2014 to approve an ongoing raise of 1.75 percent or more; if they don’t, district leaders and the teacher’s union will go back to the bargaining table, where they may reopen one or more contract articles – including articles that don’t deal with salaries.

If a new deal isn’t reached by February 15, 2014, both sides will declare an impasse, sending the dispute into the hands of a state mediator.

“It gets a little complicated if they do not vote to give us the increase,” said Audrey Hyman, the new president of the Alameda Education Association. “We’re basically back where we were right before the settlement.”

Hyman brought the issue to the school board last week, she said, because she’s concerned district leaders will wait until the last minute to bring the raise to the board for its vote.

“I think the BART strike showed us how impacted people can become when information is not sought ahead of time,” Hyman said.

Vital said she will bring the decision to the board at its January 28, 2014 board meeting – three days before the decision must be made.

“I realize this may feel like the last minute to teachers who are waiting for news about the raise, but we won’t actually know how much money the state is giving us until January 20, when the governor releases his annual budget,” Vital wrote in response to e-mailed questions from a reporter.

She said that the district will know a little more about its budget when staffers offer a first interim budget projection in December, but that with a host of unknowns that include how the state’s new school funding formula, the Affordable Care Act and the Measure H parcel tax lawsuit will shake out, it “just wouldn’t be prudent” for the board to make a decision sooner.

“But I will say this: We are as eager to resolve this matters as the teachers are,” Vital wrote.

But Hyman said that the wait leaves both sides with little time to resolve any disputes. She said the contract teachers have now took more than two dozen bargaining sessions to resolve.

“It’s putting us on a very tight timeline,” she said.

School staffers have presented budget projections to the school board at its prior two meetings that show the need for budget-balancing cuts by the 2015-2016 school year. The 1.75 percent raise would cost $2.4 million that year, the projections show. But the future-year budget projections were based on the old state funding formula, which won’t be used to determine funding in future years.

Hyman said she’s concerned board members are not getting a clear picture of how funding will change under the new formulas; she noted that the district has consistently shown the need for cuts over the past several years, and has ended each year with ever-larger budget surpluses. Hyman said she is hearing from her sources that the funding will be available to grant the raises.

“The district has to think about, how are they spending their money?” she said. “Isn’t it time, finally, to reinvest in the teachers and staff who are there in the classroom, working with the students on a daily basis?”

The district and its teachers reached a contract deal after two years of acrimonious negotiations that saw teachers reject one proposed contract and both sides seek the aid of a state mediator after negotiations reached an impasse. Teachers sought a 4.5 percent raise, while district leaders wanted to maintain class size that had been raised as part of an earlier interim agreement and to pilot a program that would see teachers collaborating on lesson plans and poring over test scores in an effort to boost achievement.

The teachers won a series of raises over several years, while the district got to maintain class sizes in kindergarten to third grade at 25 students per teacher. A 10-person committee was to be established to explore the possibility of a pilot.

Comments

Submitted by Al Wright on Mon, Oct 28, 2013

Incredible! I don't believe this! The School Board is going to wait til the absolute last minute to begin discussing a 1.75% raise for teachers, that was made a part of the recent contract settlement. As reported in The Alamedan, the Superintendent has scheduled the discussion for 3 days before the contract calls for a vote to be taken
on the raise, at the January 28 Board meeting. “I realize this may feel like the last minute to teachers who are waiting for news about the raise, but we won’t actually know how much money the state is giving us until January 20, when the governor releases his annual budget,” Vital wrote in response to e-mailed questions from a reporter. The Alamedan article goes on to say, "She said that the district will know a little more about its budget when staffers offer
a first interim budget projection in December, but that with a host of unknowns that include how the state’s new school funding formula, the Affordable Care Act and the Measure H parcel tax lawsuit will shake out, it “just wouldn’t be prudent” for the board to make a decision sooner." "Just wouldn't be prudent?" Really? This is the same Board that just last month approved an extension in the Superintendent's contract for one year, starting NEXT JULY?!?! Given these same unknowns, how was that prudent? With the Measure H payback looming on the horizon, how do they even know if we can afford a Superintendent in the near future? The School Board negotiates an extension to the Supe's contract 18 months in advance, but can't be bothered to take up a negotiation that was made a part of the current
contract with the teachers until 3 days before, by contract, that decision needs to be made? Fantastic! The Superintendent's contract calls for 18 months of severance pay should she be fired for any reason; is the Board prepared to offer those same terms to their teachers now? Where is the equity in their actions? Where is the
fairness? Have they no shame?

Submitted by Susan Davis (AU... (not verified) on Mon, Oct 28, 2013

I just wanted to clarify that it’s not just AUSD Board of Education members who are “not getting a clear picture of how funding change under the new formulas.” School districts across the state are currently in a state of limbo as they wait to hear how LCFF will affect the state’s allocation of funds for public education and they are being counseled, by school finance experts, to be conservative in their spending plans. In fact, school districts will not hear how much money they are receiving for 2013-2014 until June of 2014. This is because the state itself does not yet know how much money will be allocated to each district or what kinds of regulations will influence how those funds are spent. (School districts will hear about 2014-15 allocations in January, 2014, as noted in the article.)

Readers who are interested in learning more about the difficulty of making decisions about district expenditures when there is not yet solid information about anticipated revenues can read more in the following articles:

S&I Cabinet Report: “With First New Money in Years, School Labor Negotiations Grow Complicated.”
http://www.siacabinetreport.com/articles/viewarticle.aspx?article=4904

EdSource: “A New K-12 Funding System Demands New Thinking in Building Local Budgets.”
http://www.edsource.org/today/2013/a-new-k-12-funding-system-demands-new...

In response to Al's comment about the superintendent getting her contract renewed 18 months before it expires: that is standard practice in California. And the provision for severance pay has been a part of the contracts of at least the last three superintendents in this district.

Submitted by Anne DeBardeleben on Mon, Oct 28, 2013

Al, your issues sound like they should be directed to the State not the BOE and Superintendent. We all voted for Prop 30 to help support schools and once again, they've decided they will help, they just won't let districts know what that means in dollars and cents until June 30, when the school year is over and the next years budget are due. They'll allude to one thing or another but until its real, how can ANY district plan for their students needs. A presentation was made at the last BOE meeting listing programs that the BOE will need to consider eliminating to meet the raises. The Superintendent stated the presentation was not a recommendation just preparation for the worst case scenario. With regards to the extension of the Superintendents contract, one way or another we need a Superintendent, no unknowns, no changes to budget. In addition, comparing negotiations between an individuals contract and a bargaining unit is apples and oranges.

Submitted by Really-question-mark on Mon, Oct 28, 2013

Regarding Susan Davis' comment, can you quote a source showing that it is a standard practice to renew a Superintendent's contract 18 months before expiration?

Also, why does it matter that "the severance pay provision has been in the last 3 Superintendents' contracts"? In the corporate world, that is called a golden parachute; why should that apply to a small town school district?

Submitted by Al Wright on Mon, Oct 28, 2013

Yes, I get that the state is still playing fast and loose with school funding. That's a given. Did you miss Ms. Vital's comment about the teacher's raise? "with a host of unknowns that include how the state’s new school funding formula, the Affordable Care Act and the Measure H parcel tax lawsuit will shake out, it “just wouldn’t be prudent” for the board to make a decision sooner." And I have to ask again, if it's not prudent to make a decision on something that is already memorialized in a contract agreement, why was it prudent to agree to extend the Superintendent's contract with all those same unknown's? Of course, when push comes to shove, and the money that we are expecting (or at least hoping for) from the state doesn't materialize, it's the teachers, the students. the clerical staffs that will feel the brunt of the cuts. Right? Not the Superintendent's office.

Submitted by Susan Davis (AU... (not verified) on Tue, Oct 29, 2013

Hi really-question-mark,

On the severance pay issue: I brought that up only because some community members have blamed the Board of Education and/or the superintendent for that 18-month provision and I wanted to clarify that it's not new to our district. Nor is that kind of "parachute" unusual in other districts, as you can see from these other superintendent contracts, published on Mike McMahon's website last spring(http://www.mikemcmahon.info/acsbaminutes.htm#apr13).

Submitted by Susan Davis (AU... (not verified) on Tue, Oct 29, 2013

And in answer to your other question ("can you quote a source showing that it is a standard practice to renew a Superintendent's contract 18 months before expiration?"), I couldn't find anything online. So I posed the question to Joe Jones, the assistant executive director of the Association of California School Administrators. He said it is "certainly common practice" for boards to work on superintendent contracts that far ahead of time, as it gives a superintendent time to find another position if need be. (It also allows the superintendent to focus on his/her work during the remainder of the contract, rather than worrying about job security.) Hope that helps!

Submitted by Kimberly Kennedy (not verified) on Tue, Oct 29, 2013

I'm glad that the superintendent can focus on her job security, because that's what's really at stake here... her job.

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