As you know our three-year contract expires at the end of this school year. Yes, it seems like we just finished the last one! That is because it took almost two years to settle the last contract. We are hoping to avoid that predicament. So, in that effort, our bargaining team has been meeting weekly since January with the district. We continue to work collaboratively with the District in order to best address the areas of concerns identified in our bargaining survey, our education summit, and our SPED town hall. We hope we can come to an agreement that does that, by the mutually agreed upon end of the year deadline. This would enable us to have a new contract in place just as our old contract expires. Something that we’ve never done before. It would also avoid the unneeded uncertainty of beginning next year with an expired contract. We are making good progress. We strongly prefer for our voice and budget priorities be incorporated now as the District creates its budget for next year. However, make no mistake, we will not agree to anything just in order to expedite this process.
Our contract is always a priority for our members, bargaining a fair and professional contract is one of the most important aspects of our work. Choosing the best process to secure the best contract for our members is dependent upon our relationship with the District. Last round you probably remember we had to push the District to the edge of a strike in order to get the necessary items needed to improve conditions for students and educators. This included eliminating general ed. combo classes, reducing class sizes in 7-12 core classes, increasing many of the extra duty stipends AND removing the District effort to tie evaluations to movement on the salary schedule and forcing us to sit on campus for our 8th hour. Plus, an 8.5% salary increase over three years instead of 2.5%. We also increased healthcare coverage while drastically cutting out of pocket health care costs. We made many more gains but we didn’t get everything we wanted or believe our members and students deserve. Our collective work resulted in a dramatic improvement from what was offered and during this process we also were able to see a welcome change in District leadership.
Why the history lesson? Because our work is never done. We know that our members wanted class size reduction to include most classes not just core. We also know our members are frustrated by meetings in which they have no agency. We know our members want more clarity around safety and discipline policies. So, our focus now, in addition to the main priorities of salary/healthcare, is to improve areas of the contract we were unable to last time. Our work is also guided by our negotiations survey and interactions FTA leadership has had with members and issues that have been observed at school sites.
This new process of working side by side with the District requires a different level of communication. If we were to criticize the District positions publicly or the District where to criticize our positions publicly this would cause both sides to retreat and stop working together on finding solutions as well as funding. This new process also encourages both parties to not let disagreements breakdown the entire process. We are encouraged that leadership on both sides is striving to improve public education in a way that celebrates the work of educators and addresses the needs of our students. WE ARE A FULL YEAR AHEAD OF “NORMAL” SCHEDULE.
If this new “interest based” negotiations are not producing superior results for all then we will simply go back to traditional negotiations. Rest assured! We are advocating for the absolute best outcome in every area of concern. We will not stop until we believe it’s the best we can do OR we will take a step back and outline the key differences between our positions and the Districts. At that point we will need the strongest teacher association in the Valley to once again rally together for the benefit of us all. Thank you all for the hard work that you do, you are FTA’s strength.