District and Teachers’ Union Negotiate New Contract

Sophia Bollag, Managing Editor

Contract negotiations between the district and the Acalanes Education Association began Oct. 25 and will most likely continue for several months. Because of increased revenues, both the district and the union are optimistic that the negotiations will be more favorable this year for both parties than they were two years ago.

The Acalanes Education Association presented its Sunshine Proposal for the 2012-2013 school year at the beginning of October. The union opened with the following objectives for the negotiations: salary increases for Association members; changes to the teaching hours section of the contract, including the portions regarding open house, prep period subbing, and the traveling teachers’ stipend; changes to the language in the contract regarding catastrophic leave; medical, dental, and vision care for active members and their families and future retirees; development of an application process for Schedule B positions such as department chairs, webmasters, choral directors, etc.; and development of a process for allowing part-time employees to become full-time employees when positions become available.

The district made similar proposals regarding salaries, teaching hours, and employee benefits, but added the following: limited class sizes; changes regarding the procedure for staff transfers; examination of the components and structure of the evaluation process

The entire contract is open for negotiation this year. Typically, a contract has a three-year period during which the contract as a whole is closed to negotiation, but during which two or three sections can be opened for negotiation each year. The last negotiation cycle was three years ago and was completely closed.

The contract negotiated this year will apply for all teachers, counselors, librarians, psychologists, nurses, speech therapists, and all other non-administrative employees in the district, even those not in the teachers’ union.

Members of the Acalanes Education Association were surveyed in September to obtain their opinions so the negotiators can accurately represent all those to whom the contract will apply. On the teachers’ side, there are four negotiators, one from each school in the district. The district negotiators are Administrative Services Associate Superintendent Kevin French and Business Services Associate Superintendent Christopher Learned.

Nick Carpenter, the Lead Negotiator representing the Acalanes Education Association, said the union’s top priorities are financial.

“The top is always salary and benefits,” he said.

Both Carpenter and Learned said they thought there would be no furlough days laid out in the contract.

“I don’t think there will be furlough days,” Carpenter said. “I’m very optimistic that the teachers will receive some sort of raise and compensation.”

According to Carpenter, furlough days were a big loss for teachers in the last contract.

“We took a pay cut the last couple years with the furlough days,” he said “It’s been three or four years since the teachers have gotten a raise and their cost of living has continued to go up.”

Carpenter said the outcome of the contract negotiations two years ago “was very negative towards teachers” because of the recession.

“We were in the middle of a huge drop in revenue,” he said. “The district was faced with some difficult economic situations. Depending on where they were on the salary schedule, and depending on their benefits, over the last two years, each teacher lost over about $5,000.”

Although the first negotiating session this year has already taken place, Carpenter said he does not know when the negotiations will be completed.

“We’re just starting and it’s hard to tell when we’ll be done,” he said. “Negotiation could be done in a few months, or we could be negotiating towards the end of the year or starting at the beginning of next year. It’s really difficult to tell how it’s going to go.”

Several of the opening proposals aim only to change the wording of certain parts of the contract. Carpenter cited the union’s proposal to change the contract language regarding catastrophic leave as an example.

“We’re not really changing the program,” he said. “We just want to change the language in the program, which I assume would be something we could fix very quickly. The other issues might take some more time.”