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Mt. Diablo teachers’ union reaches tentative agreement

By Theresa Harrington
Friday, March 11th, 2011 at 9:49 pm in Education, Mt. Diablo school district.

If Mt. Diablo district teachers approve a tentative agreement hammered out Friday, students will lose three days of classes by the end of this school year.

That’s because the Mt. Diablo Education Association has struck a deal with the district to accept three furlough days, while maintaining elementary library, vocal music and PE prep periods the district wanted to eliminate.

“We have a one-year contract from last July to the end of June, because we’re still without a contract this year,” union president Mike Langley told me today.

Teachers and the district still need to decide which days to take, but the pay cuts will be deducted one day a month in April, May and June, Langley said.

Besides the furlough days, the proposed contract also includes several smaller items:

– A new form will be developed to ensure that class sizes that are too large at the beginning of the semester will be addressed by the district, instead of the school, after 19 student days;

– Minor language changes related to job-sharing, to be more aligned with Education Code;

– A new peer review system that would require some teachers on special assignment, such as math and literacy coaches, to go through the same panel that Peer Assistance Review coaches go through to be placed in a “pool” that principals can select from. The panel includes four administrators and four union members.

“They can now make sure that well-qualified and appropriate people are placed in this pool for our teachers on special assignment,” Langley said.

– Fifth-grade teachers who opt not to accompany their classes to Outdoor Education camp would substitute in appropriate classes at their own schools.

– Three “discretionary” days off could be used for personal leave, with no explanation necessary.

– Summer school teachers would be laid-off according to seniority and credential if they are not needed.

The union plans to hold meetings to inform members about the deal and answer questions. The meetings will be held Wednesday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 22, Langley said.

In 2011-12, the agreement would also delay until later in the year two of teachers’ three “staff days,” which normally provide professional development in August. This would provide flexibility for up to seven future furlough days, Langley said (five school days and two “staff days”).

“Every other thing is status quo,” Langley said, “which means it continues on next year.”

Although Julie Braun-Martin said in an e-mail that the district would send out eight pink slips to librarians, Langley said the number was seven. He also said five music teachers would receive pink slips, including one instrumental music teacher and four vocal music teachers.

In all, 82 teachers and credentialed staff covered by the union will get preliminary lay-off notices, Langley said. Administrators and some adult education teachers are not members of the union.

“We were very concerned about some of the things we were going to leave as status quo, but we felt there were such differences that negotiations were going to drag on and our ability to contribute to helping the district’s fiscal situation lessened each week that negotiations were stalled,” he said. “So, we chose to accept status quo for this contract so we could give up three pay cut days and allow the district to move forward on their search for fiscal stability.”

The main “status quo” item the union objects to is meeting time after school, he said. The union wants to cap the amount of time teachers can be required to attend such meetings and specify a definite “end of the work day” time, beyond which teachers would get extra pay.

“We know that their books have a structural deficit as well as the threat of more cuts from the state,” Langley said. “So, rather than lose the opportunity, our members are willing to make the sacrifice and start getting back to some real negotiations in September.”

The district’s willingness to give up the elementary prep periods will mean it will have to remove those items from its budget cut list, if the union and board approve the contract. These changes haven’t been made for Tuesday’s meeting.

In addition, some new ideas suggested by trustees don’t appear on the revised cut list.

“Gary (Eberhart) talked about maybe looking at areas like testing,” Langley said. “I think he was delineating: ‘Is that something we really need or that we want?’ Because when you’re talking about giving up days — time of instruction for kids — everything that they’re keeping and paying for should be measured against that standard: ‘Is this more important than a day of instruction?’ I think Mr. Eberhart was wondering if unmandated testing was more important than a day of instruction.”

Langley said campus safety is another important concern, when making budget-cutting decisions.

“Sometimes the district administration and the school board don’t fully understand the impact of some of the things they’re asking for,” he said. “And we will try to continue to communicate that to them as they continue to communicate to us their wants and needs.”

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