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Letter to the Editor: Teacher Negotiations

Connie Turner is an AUSD teacher who is a member of the Alameda Education Association (AEA) Executive Board and a member of the Negotiating Team

Negotiate? What is that?

When asked why things went so smoothly when we negotiated the MOU, my response is that we actually negotiated.

Since that time there has been no negotiation. An important part of that success was the outside attorney who helped NEGOTIATE that document, where with mutual respect we worked together to find common ground. The district, under the leadership of their house counsel, is simply trying their case in the court of public opinion.

Here are just a couple of examples of this:

When we asked for 3% for 3 year and full benefits (which the superintendent received) the district did not return to the table and say we can’t do that but we can offer 1% for 2 years, which would have opened NEGOTIATIONS to find common ground. Instead, the district priced out the highest possible outcome and posted it on their website.

This year we asked that extra duties and meetings be limited to 5 hours per month. The reality is that most teachers work many hours after school and on their own time. The district did not return to the table and counter that they needed more hours, like 12 hours per month, which would have opened NEGOTIATIONS to find common ground. Instead they again priced out the highest possible cost they could imagine and posted it on their website.

Our members voted against forced collaboration, and voted against giving up their right to bargain the calendar. The district did not come to the table and offer any alternative or compromise; they simply inserted these very same items into their proposal. Their proposal was not a counter offer. So again, no NEGOTIATIONS.

I would like to feel justified in saying the district bargains in bad faith, but the truth is, they don’t bargain at all.

Connie Turner

Mandy Chang May 01, 2012 at 01:54 PM
When you asked for 3% for 3 years, which would have bankrupted the district, I think the district responded with an offer that represented as much as its budget could stand. You can "negotiate" all you want but at the end of the day you have to confront basic realities, i.e. how much money we have now, and the fact that we don't have good visibility on how much money we will have in future. Why doesn't the union acknowledge that? You, the union and teachers, have used the "court of public opinion" early and often during the ongoing negotiations, and you continue to do so. I would be happy to see both sides go to radio silence on this and work things out, but as long as you don't do it, I wouldn't expect the district to do so either.
Jack Schultz May 01, 2012 at 02:16 PM
If you're looking for sympathy from the public, take these two steps first: 1) Give us a calendar. We deserve one. You've already proposed one. The district has already said it will accept it. Go ahead and aceept your own proposal & give the public what it deserves. It will make the union appear constructive instead of obstructive. 2) Stop propogandizing in front of our children and that includes the buttons pinned to collars. You recently agreed it was inappropriate, so stop what you know is wrong: http://www.alameda.k12.ca.us/images/stories/pdfs/HR/joint_letter-gray_harris_and_kirsten_vital.pdf Those two simple steps will go a long way toward shoring up the union's public image.
Helen Wu May 01, 2012 at 02:23 PM
Funny that the AEA accuses the Distrct of not negotiating when the AEA won't negotiate a calendar for next year. Actually, I take that back. It's not funny at all.
Emmie May 01, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Well said Connie. Thank you for all you do. As a second generation Alamedan, Alameda resident,Alameda homeowner and Alameda teacher, I appreciate your hard work in bettering our community.
Jenya Cassidy May 01, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Helen - the District is using the calendar to turn public opinion against the teachers - it doesn't even have to be part of the bargaining - many districts do it separately. And parents really need to support the teachers and hear their side - I think the district is using it's website inappropriately to turn opinion against the teachers. Distasteful!
Jack Schultz May 01, 2012 at 07:44 PM
If it doesn't have to be part of the bargaining, then separate it from the bargaining and approve the damn thing! The district agreed to the union's calendar, all the union has to do is agree with itself.
Jenya Cassidy May 01, 2012 at 07:46 PM
This is a good letter - I'm frustrated that the district isn't bargaining in good faith or trying harder to work with the teachers. I think the majority of parents support the teachers and realize that we don't have quality schools without them! Regarding informational picketing - it isn't the end of the world for kids to see their teachers standing up for themselves. Far from it! It is part of our democracy and a right we should be proud of. The District needs to see that we support our teachers!
Helen Wu May 01, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Jenya, The AEA has turned public opinion against itself by holding the calendar hostage to bargaining over unrelated issues. Jack is right. If it doesn't have to be part of the bargaining (as you say) then the AEA should just say yes to its own proposal.
Jack Schultz May 01, 2012 at 07:57 PM
So you'd be OK with the district engaging in informational picketing in front of children on their way to school?
Jenya Cassidy May 01, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Maybe you should come to the community meeting and ask about it - the calendar doesn't legally have to be bargained with the contract but there may be issues that the District attached to it to make it so i.e. furlough days etc.
Jenya Cassidy May 01, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Jack - it doesn't bother me if anyone pickets - it's their first amendment right.
Helen Wu May 01, 2012 at 08:54 PM
You mean the community meeting tonight where we only get to hear from representatives from the AEA? Because reportedly, the AEA is refusing to participate in a meeting sponsored by the PTA Council where both sides could be heard. And according to the District's website, there were no conditions on the District's acceptance of the AEA's proposed calendar.
Jack Schultz May 01, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Speaking of the court of public opinion.... The union has made a lot of public noise about how many grievances have been filed under the current super. They seem to think it shows just how nasty the super is, but I just read em, and they make the union, or rather, a few bad apples look like the nasty ones. Take a look: http://www.alameda.k12.ca.us/images/stories/pdfs/AEA_GRIEVANCES_-_Summary_Document_updated_4_16_12_.pdf Most of the grievances were filed by teachers who didn't like being written for things they should have been fired for. Juicy stuff in there: teacher cussing at students, another making racial slurs, a first grade teacher who walks out on the kids for 20 minutes, crazy crazy stuff. Read it. It will change your opinion of AEA, and not for the better.....
Helen Wu May 01, 2012 at 09:10 PM
Everyone who has pointed at the number of grievances as a sign that the administration is out of hand should read this comment on Blogging Bayport: http://laurendo.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/agree-to-disagree-2/#comment-101880 Really appalling stuff in there. Notably, the grievances don't dispute that the bad stuff happened. They just complain about the level or method of discipline imposed.
hobnob May 01, 2012 at 11:08 PM
I've always been a supporter of having management being able to fire people easier that are members of the union for doing inappropriate things/bad workers... the unions do protect them, but I wonder why? Maybe having these few bad apples makes others not look as bad, b/c the bar has been set so low, the high bar isn't that high? These teachers should have been fired, especially the one that allowed students to drink and do drugs on a field trip! WTF!
Mark Irons May 02, 2012 at 01:14 AM
hobnob's statement about deliberately keeping bad apples is histrionics and it's frankly idiotic. These infractions have unfortunately always occurred. The union doesn't defend or deny them because, well, why would they. It's procedural. There is due process for anybody no matter what their infraction. A child molester will be removed immediately and we can all agree as to why, but the rules don't allow a teacher to be fired on the spot based on the administrations unilateral decision making . The spike in grievances has to do with procedure, not the infractions themselves. Helen's post with it's link is a crafty attempt to switch the focus from the material disagreements our situation to a generic debate about whether unions are protecting bad teachers, or somehow characterize the union as arguing teachers shouldn't be disciplined or even fired for what is admittedly some pretty bad stuff. But since you can almost be certain there hasn't been a huge spike in bad apples over the past you have to ask how they were dealt with in the past. Anti-union zealots may want to assume it's because past administrations haven't been as diligent as this one, but the other side of that coin is that past administration dealt with the similar number of incidents more pragmatically and with less deliberate confrontation. I don't know that answer with precision, but I do think screaming about a small number of incidents is amounts to some pretty bad mud slinging.
Mark Irons May 02, 2012 at 01:20 AM
Helen's post on Bayport gives usual lip service about how of course the majority of teachers are sterling, but this tactic attempts to slime them all. Is there really any question why teachers need collective bargaining? The union is not defending or in many cases denying reasons these teachers have been written up. They are challenging the procedure of progressive discipline. Anybody who is really interested in resolving our conflict fairly should think twice before trying to drag us into a larger discussion about education reform by fanning flames of anti-union hysteria.
Mark Irons May 02, 2012 at 01:25 AM
Jack On kids seeing pickets. I guess we'd all prefer to live is a euphoric haze of tree lined streets and picket fences where we walk our kids to school and leave them with their Stepford teachers. Don't forget the unicorns. But this is the real world where people disagree. You seem to have two choices. Either cover their eyes as you walk by or chalk it up to a teachable moment about how they should stick up for themselves.
AlamedaCitizen May 02, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Connie, 3% for 3 years. I did not vote for the parcel tax to give teachers a raise. Had the parcel tax failed, the district employees would have taken a cut in their salaries. Parcel tax keeps them at the same level. All district employees get step raises and now they want a raise on top of their annual step. I am all for performance pay. I think teacehrs should get performance pay and we should actullay "attract and retain excellent teachers" and not the most senior teachers.
Alameda Citizen May 02, 2012 at 02:47 AM
Thanks Jack. Teachers are talking about the Superintendent's performance pay. Take a look at the following grievance. Article 10 (Transfer) Issue: The District interviewed several teachers for a Teacher on Special Assignment for English Language Development and selected a teacher for the position who was not the teacher with the most years of classroom teaching experience in the District. AEA Position: The District was required to place the teacher with the most seniority into the position of Teacher on Special Assignment for English Language Development. Response: District denied the grievance on the basis that Teacher selected for the position was the most qualified candidate for the position and that the District was not required to place the most senior candidate into the position.
Jack Schultz May 02, 2012 at 04:06 AM
Mark: Read this again: http://www.alameda.k12.ca.us/images/stories/pdfs/HR/joint_letter-gray_harris_and_kirsten_vital.pdf It doesn't say never or illegal or anything final, but why is it OK now when it wasn't then? And if you think such behavior is professional, then you do not know what "professional" means.
Jack Schultz May 02, 2012 at 04:17 AM
A day's work in the private sector would crush anyone who thinks that racial slurs, abandoning children, making fun of handicapped children and cussing at non-handicapped ones deserves "due process." The process the rest of us would be due is summary termination, most deservedly. Enjoy your process. We'll enjoy private school.
hobnob May 02, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Thank you Jack Schultz! I am not a anti-union zealot, even though you think me to be... but I will not defend my stance. Guess allowing children to do illegal drugs and underage drinking is ok now.
Jack Schultz May 03, 2012 at 01:03 AM
More than 24 hours and no comment from Turner, no word from the union. That makes it painfully clear the documents are accurate -- the union IS defending these miscreants. And not giving us a calendar. If you want respect, act respectably.
cturnover May 03, 2012 at 01:56 PM
I am appalled that the district thinks giving their version of grievances is even appropriate. The issues involved are far more complex than their list, and should not be aired in public. I think Mark's comments explain that. To respond gives this ridiculous thread credibility. And has nothing to do with the topic of the letter, which is the district's unwillingness to to actually bargain.
Island Mom May 03, 2012 at 07:36 PM
cturnover - there has clearly been bargaining. Gray Harris (union leader) said herself, on this site, that there were hours of negotiations and mediation. The district and union agreed to a tentative agreement that would have given teachers a bonus and a pay rise. I guess some parents like myself are tired of the "they don't bargain at all" stuff you keep writing that really doesn't fit with the facts and is unhelpful. It's the unions job to get a good deal for the teachers - right now you are just making the teachers look bad with allegations that are clearly not true.
Jack Schultz May 03, 2012 at 09:18 PM
What's "complex" about making racial slurs? It happened or it didn't. What's "complex" about leaving kids unattended? It happened or it didn't.
cturnover May 03, 2012 at 10:32 PM
There is a very big difference between bringing offers to the bargaining table, and doing it behind closed doors in mediation where no one can discuss or be informed. Because the teams met does not mean any actual bargaining went on. I have only said the truth.
Helen Wu May 04, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Connie, your complaint in the original letter above was that the district refused to "negotiate." As Island Mom pointed out, there have clearly been negotiations. The tentative agreement was reached following more than 50 hours of negotiations. So for you to continue to insist that there have been no negotiations just makes you look petty and ridiculous.
Bill "Rojo" Johnson May 09, 2012 at 06:09 AM
This whole debacle makes it hard for me to encourage anyone to be a teacher now a days. Why would someone want to? - Because its easy? Try educating 32 ten yr olds for an hour. Even if your teaching them about "Sponge Bob", or Ice cream, its still a challenge. -Because you make good money? LOL..... thats laughable considering the education and state certs needed to become one. Brand new teacher starts at $39,746 and if your lucky and can make it 27 yrs and earn 75 more credits in college you can look forward to a salary of $79,883. -Good Benefits? LOL.... District has a $586.43 cap on health care for family plans. Employee makes up the difference in cost. -Only work 185 days out of the year? True, each one of those days has about 10-12 hrs dedicated to teaching (grading, planning lessons, emails answering parents questions and concerns, etc..) Lets see 12hrs x185days=2,220 hours. -To make a difference? You will.... with a lot of painful, unappreciated sacrifice. Still wanna be a teacher?


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