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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.”

Do you support the proposed contract?

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  • 4Students

    Is it possible that these Prop 55 SMART classrooms are different from the Measure C classrooms? Do those high schools need many more extra classrooms? Or is it possible that we’ll pay twice for the same classrooms?

  • Theresa Harrington

    It’s possible that Measure C is paying for the administration, since the staff reports have Pete Pedersen’s name on them.
    Also, Lawrence called Pedersen up to talk about the proposed budget reductions in Maintenance and Operations, even though Pedersen is no longer supposed to be overseeing that dept.
    It appears that he may be involved in more than just Measure C oversight.

  • Exhausted Parent

    MD teacher,

    I know very well that many of the teachers who wanted more paycheck/no benefits are gone now. So? How is that the problem of the rest of the staff workers, who were wise enough to keep their benefits? Why do they have to suffer for the short-sighted behavior of the supposedly most-educated of the employees?

    Again, those who signed contracts since then knew what they were getting into. I have no pity for them, either. Walk into a job, then whine you can’t whave what you want? Grow up.

    Despite the lack of benefits, we’re still getting excellent teachers who want to work here. I get to meet them in my volunteer capacity, and they are wonderful people who still feel that children come first. They understand that this isn’t a job you take because you are interested in living large.

    The reason I get utterly incensed by this topic is that I see folks who, like post #22 above, keep bringing it up. The misinformation ticks me off no end. I won’t let such lies go unaddressed.

    The district does plenty of ridiculous things. Voting away benefits isn’t one of them – that’s all on the MDEA members. Let’s place blame where it belongs.

  • Theresa Harrington

    The superintendent’s budget recommendations include the assumption of more than $6.8 million savings THIS school year from three furlough days, a cap on health benefits and prorated benefits for part-time employees. Do you think it is wise for the board to approve a budget that includes these assumptions?

  • Doctor J

    I know MDEA approved the 3 furlough days — did they approve the cap on health benefits and prorated benefits for part time employees ?

  • Theresa Harrington

    The benefits cap and pro-ration are proposed for the other unions, which are at impasse. Lawrence also proposes building in seven furlough days for all employees in 2011-12 and 12-13, which need to be negotiated.
    Previously, CFO Bryan Richards said he didn’t include these items in the budget because they hadn’t been voted on by the union or approved by the board. Now, Lawrence appears to be willing to assume the district can build them into the budget.

  • Anon

    MD Teacher and Susan Townsend:

    ** THE TEACHERS VOTED AWAY THEIR OWN MEDICAL BENEFITS. **

    Any new teachers joining MDUSD knew what they were getting into.

    It’s teachers like you who contribute to the lack of community support. I *do* support many of our teachers as individuals, but I do *NOT* support MDEA. I also find it extremely difficult to support teachers like you — who take no accountability for their own vote and who also misrepresent the situation with health coverage (it was the teachers own decision). Shame on you.

  • http://unkown Glen Boscacci

    I find it fascinating that some comment on a teachers salary with no knowledge. I believe this constitutes at least some form of ignorance. It has been years since we have had any sort of raise and in the meantime inflation has eaten up my paycheck to the tune of 20%. This district has never bargained in good faith and hires more people for the Dent Center even as they close schools and ask for furlough days.In my 23 years as a teacher, the administration of MDUSD has alway been on the verge of ineptness. We are rapidly becoming Texas as we only teach to the test. We can find money to purchase Curriculum Associates and Lexia programs for reading, even as we whittle down the school year. I gaurantee you this: MDUSD teacher will be asked to to do even more… One last comment: I work approx. 60 hours per week, and my wife works another 20 hours per week in my room for nada…

  • sam munck

    I read several of the entries and find all of you intelligent and sincerely dedicated. I think it is important to remember the history of our journey. Endless effort has been contributed to the understanding that intelligent and informed voters are the basis of a strong and righteous civilization. The education of our children is not just a luxury but a necesssity. Our very existence depends on the creation of a population that matures and guides themselves in a responsible manner.

    As Sue Berg mentioned above, the grand citizens of the MDUSD have short-sightedly voted to save their $98 and either hoped the problem would go away or see no value in education. It’s a good deal for them, but a bad deal for the teachers, students, and related staff. They saved $98, and the district in turn intends to unfairly tax the teachers and staff $1,500 each. The families of MDUSD, numbering in the mid-twenty thousands, pay nothing while the 1,600 teachers and their families write a check for the total.

    When times were flush and 25 yr olds were making millions, the teachers of the MDUSD were busy giving away their benefits, with zealous and crafted betrail by the District. The teachers of MDUSD never saw a raise or received their hard-earned COLA’s during this grand golden era. Teacher have been notoriously underpaid. Now that times have become stressful, who does everybody expect to dig even deeper? The Teachers. Sorry, Teachers are all dapped out. If everyone wanted the Teachers to bail them out after their run at speculation….they should have paid them better.

    The District has a responsibility to show good faith. I feel that one of the previous writers has a good idea. With the districts earnest “search for fiscal stability” … Let’s chop from the top. Let’s put our money where our mouth is. If the community is serious about improving things, then they must go to the polls and support the process.

    The exhausted parent in #53 should cut a check too.

    TEACHERS WILL AND CAN NOT GIVE ANYMORE!!!!! WE ALREADY GAVE AT THE OFFICE.

  • Exhausted Parent

    You want me to cut a check, Sam, when I’ve already “paid” by having a month cut from my time? I wasn’t among the people who voted away benefits. My union understood that a bit smaller paycheck meant keeping decent benefits. Why should I pay for other people’s short-sighted behavior? Teachers got what they voted for – that’s not my fault. No one has received COLA or a raise, it’s not just the teachers. The martyr card just won’t play at this card game.

  • Susan Townsend

    Anon,
    Interesting that because I’m advocating for MDUSD teachers you assumed I am one. You are wrong. I use my real name and I was a student in MDUSD, own a home in the district, and my child now attends Northgate High School. Every teacher I ever had, or my children ever had, in MDUSD has been an inspiration. They work 60 hour weeks, attend professional development in the summers, grade papers at soccer games for their own children, pay for their family’s medical benefits out of their paychecks, have no social security benefits, no perks, no bonuses, no company vehicles, no expense accounts, no paid time off, no personal days, and only 30 minute lunch breaks. They prepare their classrooms for weeks in August (unpaid), spend hundreds of dollars on their classrooms, call parents, grade papers and plan lessons at home. I respect teachers and realize that if they used their level of education in any other field they would earn double the salary they earn. I also want our children to be taught by people with self respect which is why I understand teachers who are standing up for the teaching profession and themselves by voting NO on this tentative agreement full concessions that will impact children for years and years to come. Who will teach, when teachers are not respected and valued by society?
    MDUSD has not cut money spent at the top, on consultants, lawyers, administrators, or any of the 6-digit positions. This needs to happen first, before asking teachers to give AGAIN.

  • Sue Berg

    Susan Townsend, I applaud your advocating for MDUSD teachers. I’m just sorry that you seem to think other district employees do not work as hard or as long, do not contribute to family medical benefits, have not suffered any cutbacks or hardships, and have a variety of perks teachers do not.

    These budget cuts have hit everyone in the district; only those who are still working through the step-and-column salary grid have had any salary increase (OK, Dr. J’s “Gang of 5″ excepted). As one school office manager pointed out, support staff at the sites have had their work day and year (and thus their salary) decreased–and this without the furlough days the district is asking of them. Everyone in the district’s management group (district administrators, principals, and all other administrators at the school sites) started taking furlough days (and thus pay cuts) last school year.

    At the Dent Center both management and support positions have been eliminated, with more being proposed. The associate superintendent position (overseeing the district’s education programs) and one assistant superintendent (overseeing district operations) position have been cut, with Asst. Supt. Rose Lock taking on the ed. programs and General Counsel Greg Rolen adding oversight of maintenance and facilities. Off the top of my head, I count six fewer director positions: purchasing, M&O, special education, research & evaluation, alternative ed, one of the two in Personnel, and the internal auditor. Mine and other positions supporting district administrators are also gone. I believe at least one director position was cut in fiscal services when Brian Richards was promoted to CFO. The legal department has expanded, but we’ve been told there are still savings being made. I can’t speak to that.

    Sam Munck, teachers and all employee units received a 10 percent increase during the heady dot-com days you mention. Then came the crash that hurt us all. As for the benefits-on-the-salary-schedule issue, that was an initiative CTA was promoting in districts throughout the state at the time. I worked in Hayward USD then and came to MDUSD soon after. Hayward’s teachers union negotiated the change and all the other units there followed suit. (Not so, as you know, in MDUSD.) The change increased the salary on which retirement benefits are based, which made it attractive to veteran teachers. MDUSD Board members and senior administrators publicly and privately expressed concern about how the change would affect young teachers but they could not reject it because a majority of MDEA members had voted to include it in the agreement that their team had negotiated.

    Susan, Sam, and Glen Boscacci, it’s good to see your support for teachers. I just need to point out that other district employees (and former employees) have made sacrifices, too. Are there solutions to the budget crisis that will allow the employees who are left after all these cuts to keep their jobs?

  • Doctor J

    @Sue, please don’t forget that Supt Lawrence is getting about $50,000 more than the previous Supt Dick Nichol, plus a $75,000 signing bonus. yes, I know that Dick was just “interim” but he served more than one year ! I would also call that a ‘raise’.

  • Sue Berg

    Dr. J, My point is simply that employees in all areas of the district, including many “at the top,” have seen their job eliminated or their hours (and, thus, salaries) reduced. No one employee group has corned the market on hardship.

    I’ve heard that Dr. Lawrence is earning more than his two predecessors, but that’s a different issue than the one I responded to. I know there are fewer senior and other district-level administrators than there were two years ago, so cuts have been made at the Dent Center. I do not know if any of the savings from those cuts have gone into raises for the current leadership team.

    At this point it’s hard to know how much has been cut and where, though perhaps there’s an accounting I’ve just not seen. My comment was only to point out that the cuts and hardship have been across the district.

  • Doctor J

    Sue, the hardship has been borne mostly by the support staff — and now by young teachers. Furlough days impact the lower paid employees more because one day’s pay is much more on their take home pay. I would rather have seen all employee earning over $150,000 taking a 20% cut and those earning over $100,000 taking a 15% cut.

  • Susan

    Sue Berg – I never compared teachers with other district employees. Read my post more clearly please. I respect the other units; Local 1 CST, M & O and CSEA. I know they work incredibly hard and that is why I feel teachers should vote NO on this tentative agreement and support them, as they are at impasse with MDUSD. I do not think any person working in MDUSD should be paid $250,000 though, and I maintain that if no employee in the district earned more than the highest teacher salary, there would not be a need for furlough days which hurt students and teachers alike.

  • http://unkown Glen Boscacci

    Free association- Herein lies the problem, from one point-of-view: The district seems to have $$ for Curriculum Associates,a new payroll manager, Lexia, and curriculum specialists. There is no curriculum in this district, as all we do is teach to the test; therefore we no longer need curriculum specialists. Our union had already agreed to three furlough days in may, before its members had voted on the tentative contract. Why is the STAR test relevant any longer, as we are eventually going to switch over to national standards? Does anyone, (either parent or administrator) realize MDUSD employess are completely demoralized? This district is a mess and as far as I’m concerned, a state takeover couldn’t possibly be any worse than the current administrators.