Besides voting on another possible school closure tonight, the Mt. Diablo school board may also vote to approve laying off 85 certificated employees, including two principals, one student services coordinator and 82 teachers.
Before the meeting (right now, in fact), teachers are holding a rally protesting what they call “unfair bargaining practices” that are forcing teachers to take unpaid furlough days and increased class sizes. In a show of unity, teachers and other union district employees planned to wear “Hope Wanted” sandwich-style signs.
Mike Langley, president of the teachers’ union, told me he didn’t receive any notice from the district that the layoffs would be on the agenda (trustees plan a March 8 special meeting to vote on pink slips) or an explanation about how the district came up with its layoff estimates.
With schools closing, teachers are expected to follow the students, he said. Langley said he had heard that Bel Air Elementary may have used some of its School Improvement Grant money to lower class sizes, which the state may now be balking at, after initially approving it.
But, he was unsure how the district arrived at its decision to lay off 25 elementary teachers, five PE prep teachers and 3.4 music teachers, along with 9.4 middle school “core” teachers and about 31 high school teachers.
“Nobody’s told us anything,” Langley said. “They didn’t give us a heads-up.”
Regarding bargaining, Langley said the district appears to be asking for what they want, instead of what they need. Two bargaining units are at impasse and are going into the “fact-finding” stage, Langley said.
“That’s why they wanted to hurry up and bargain with us tomorrow,” Langey said. “We’re not at impasse. We’re not voting on anything now. We are still in negotiations. We’ve offered furlough days.”
The district wants to increase middle and high school lab classes beyond the number of lab stations, “if safe,” Langley said. In some classes, there are only 30 lab stations, but the district wants to increase the class size to 37, he said.
“We’re trying to work with them as to who would determine what is safe,” Langley said. “They want to try to infill as many classes as possible to get them to the contract maximum.”
The district also wants to include contract “reopeners” next year that could allow new discussions about wages, class sizes and other provisions, Langley said.
“We’re worried,” he said. “I think they would do that if the (governor’s tax extension) ballots don’t pan out.”
Do you think the district is bargaining unfairly?