Comments from Dec. 11 School Board Meeting
Good Evening Trustees, Colleagues, and Community Members,
People involved in public education should be repeatedly commended for their dedication and determination because there are so many inherent hurdles and inconsistencies to overcome. I include school board trustees among this group, at least those who participate in order to advance student outcomes rather than their own political agendas.
A Catch 22, from the 1961 novel by Joseph Heller, is defined as a dilemma or difficult circumstance from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting or dependent conditions. Attempting to make positive changes to our collective bargaining agreement is a case in point. Here are just a few examples.
In order to give appropriate feedback so you can make informed decisions, I need to speak to school board members one on one on a regular basis. However, the superintendent doesn't want me to do so because she feels it creates divisiveness and wants to control the message being promoted. Please understand I'm not blaming Kathy Gomez. Evergreen superintendents have always felt this way. In fact, I give her credit for being candid and openly sharing her views with me.
I admit I have always been confused by the chain of command in our district. It baffles me why trustees were unaware of management's inflammatory initial offer, 0.5% for an extra day of work, until after it was presented. I'm certainly not advocating for you to micromanage the collective bargaining process, but the fact you were completely uninformed is frankly mind boggling!
While I'm on the subject of being in the loop, I hope you are aware ETA filed a demand to bargain around the implementation of Common Core. I brought copies in case you aren’t. Basically, the people I represent are suffocating under the weight of having to create new curriculum as well as implement it.
One of the classic catch 22s, at least here in Evergreen, revolves around the concept of potential contract violations. We view filing grievances not as adversarial, but rather an opportunity to clarify gray areas in our collective bargaining agreement. However, we are invariably told by management the issue should instead be brought up during negotiations followed by an almost automatic denial. When we have brought items to the bargaining table, the district has repeatedly asserted the concern is not broad enough to warrant any language change and often has sited the lack of a grievance as proof.
Our innovative solution to the current problem has been to try both methods simultaneously. We submitted our demand to bargain on November 7 followed by the grievance on the 20th. The district, through their lawyer, has already declared our request insufficient, and I assume Superintendent Gomez is currently working on her response to our Level III filing. I must admit I am not very optimistic regarding the outcome.
Of course I realize, as Trustees, you too are subject to several catch 22s particularly around school district funding. The state distributes money on a yearly basis, and those amounts have fluctuated wildly in the past based on California’s economic performance. At the same time, each district is required to present a three-year balanced budget and comply with AB 1200 every time a new contract agreement is signed.
However, my sympathy for Evergreen’s plight is tempered but how management has responded to the current bargaining process. After an 18 month struggle, we agreed to a new multi-year deal including a major concession on healthcare. I realize I may be providing additional political fodder for those trustees who voted against the agreement, but the example illustrates our continuing frustration.
ETA pushed very hard for a closed contract allowing both sides to experience an extended period of labor peace, but the district declined citing ongoing fiscal uncertainty and the new funding formula. The compromise was for a re-opener with specific language calling for a salary increase this year. Not surprisingly however, the district adopted a 2014-15 budget last June with no projected raise, and now asserts that there is no money beyond the pittance being offered.
In many ways public education itself is a catch 22. Because everyone has been in the classroom, denigrating it and claiming expertise on how to “fix” it is rampant. I love the bumper sticker, "Those who can teach. Those who cannot pass laws about teaching."
I applaud your willingness to serve the Evergreen Community, especially our newest Trustee Sylvia Arenas, and look forward to the opportunity to continue this discussion individually.
Brian Wheatley, ETA President
408-272-0601 ext. 215
Dates to Remember
Winter Break Dec. 19 - Jan. 2
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