It has been my attempt in these posts to avoid editorializing but I hope you will indulge me. It occurred to me that when we refer to "the District" we are suggesting a party to which we do not belong. Nothing could be further from the truth. We, as much as our families, support staff, and (yes) management, are components on which the success of our organization depends. Menifee teachers have celebrated and suffered with our families. We have attended high school and college graduations, weddings, and even funerals. We teach, yes, but we also hug and cry. There is no "the District" without us.
At the first bargaining session of the 2014-2015 school year, it was brought to the Association's attention that certain aspects of the prior year's round of negotiations were brought before the school board in the public forum. Management suggested that the information presented by the speaker (we were never told what it was) should not have been discussed away from the table. While we agreed that there are some opinions expressed in our closed meetings that are best kept private, we also assured management that the information disclosed to the speaker did not originate with the Association's bargaining team. Both parties then came to a common understanding that the details of issues that remained unsettled would best be left at the table. Your team has honored that understanding, even in the face of considerable pressure from reasonably curious members. We were reluctant to disclose too many specifics for two reasons. Such disclosure can, and has, compromised the Association's position at the table. Also, we had given our word and considered it binding. It now appears that the other party to this common understanding does not share this view.
In their "Report to the Community" management appears to imply, through the release of their compensation offer, that talks have stalled due to the Association's rejection of their proposal. This is patently false. This issue remains unsettled and management's offer remains on the table. The Report goes on to justify the offer by comparing revenue to that of other school districts in Riverside County. The rationale appears to be that lower revenue is concomitant with lower pay. On its face, this makes sense. Until all the facts are considered. Management's initial offer was 2%. This offer was accompanied by a budget summary that purported to illustrate that any increase in compensation in excess of 2% would place the organization in financial peril. It now appears that 5% is "fair and reasonable" even though 2% was claimed to be the absolute limit the budget could withstand. The 5% figure was reached only through a series of offers and counter-offers. The Association has neither accepted nor rejected this offer and it is not the source of, nor even included in, management's declaration of impasse (embedded below). As a matter of fact, compensation was never discussed at the last 11-hour bargaining session during which management declared impasse without Association assent. We stated, despite the late hour, that we were willing to continue discussion. Instead, management declared impasse at 8:50 pm on June 1.
Management's Report also contends that Menifee is the "lowest funded, on a per pupil basis" school district in Riverside County. While it appears that "lowest funded" and "lowest paid" seem to mean different things to different people, some local information might add perspective. Our neighbors to the north (who may be our future co-workers) in the Perris Union High School District received a 4% raise last year. Now, they are considering a tentative agreement for ratification that will increase compensation on July 1, 2015 nearly 15%. PUHSD does indeed receive greater revenue than MUSD, but not three times the amount.
As can be seen in the declaration of impasse, there are three articles named in our contract (see the contract page on this site) as the source of impasse. The issue in Article 9 refers to catastrophic leave and the ability of members to donate leave to other members. Management is seeking an indemnification clause that protects them from liability associated with the administration of the program. This clause is common to many contracts and the Association has indicated its willingness to comply but the parties could not agree on the language of the clause. We considered our proposal "fair and reasonable". It should be noted here that our proposal regarding personal leave was rejected with limited discussion.
Sub-article 14.3 places a limit on the number of "push-in" students that can be placed in a teacher's class. Management has claimed that this sub-article runs counter to law and cites Article 16 - Savings as justification for striking this entirely from the contract. The Association has verbally agreed that the language of sub-article 14.3 can be open for reconsideration but does not agree that it be removed without replacement. To this end, we have offered to extend the Memoradum of Understanding (MOU) that "waives" sub-article 14.3 for the duration of the agreement. This was rejected. We offered to have the language of the MOU embedded in the contract. This was also rejected. Article 16 applies only when a "determination" of illegality is made. What management has offered is an opinion, not a "determination". Note here that Association's proposal to add "best efforts" language to limit pupil-teacher ratios in AVID and STEM classes was rejected with minimum conversation.
Article 20 concerns the "sealing" of a letter of reprimand. Management claims language that "seals" this letter after two years violates provisions of Ca Education Code 44944 regarding records and proposed a change that these letters remain unsealed for four years. While we were in disagreement regarding the violation of Ed Code, we offered language that recognized the effect of 44944. We did not agree that the extension to four years was required in order to comply with the code. Our offer was rejected. Again, we contend that Article 16 does not apply; assertions made by management are opinions, not "determinations".
Beyond the articles named in the declaration of impasse, management seeks language changes to Article 13 - Transfer and Reassignment that substantially limit member rights and substantially broaden the circumstances and conditions under which members can be involuntarily transferred. The Association rejects this threat to stability and the development of a feeling of community at our school sites. It is difficult to understand how anyone who is, or has been, a teacher can think this makes sense.
We are teachers, not professional labor negotiators. But we know right from wrong. We are seeking the ability to serve our community by performing our jobs well, protection from unfair and capricious disciplinary action, and compensation commensurate with colleagues in our profession. Your Team pledges to be unrelenting in this pursuit. Thank you, as always, for your loyal support.
On behalf of Your Team,