PUSD board accepts teachers union contract
Class-size reduction, counselors and specialists appear to be spared with teacher, management concessions
While the school board approved a contract with the teachers' union Tuesday night, one that would save the district nearly $4.6 million, the decision was not without controversy.
In an effort to be transparent about the budget issues and negotiations with the unions, the district had promised to provide the public with ample time to review the details of the tentative agreement prior to the board's vote. The agreement, however, was reached Friday evening, shortly after an Amador Valley High School student had been killed in an apparent suicide. It was dealing with this situation that Superintendent John Casey said delayed the management team in getting the details posted online.
School board member agreed that a mistake was made, but that they were grateful to have concessions made by teachers and wanted to move the process along quickly.
In the agreement with the Association of Pleasanton Teachers union, teachers agreed to take three unpaid furlough days in the current school year -- scheduled for April 1, May 28 and June 1 -- and five unpaid furlough days in 2010-11. The contract will last for three years, with a one-year memorandum of understanding for changes in the current contract.
Bill Faraghan, assistant superintendent of human resources, said that contracts can be reopened each year to discuss salaries. Both parties can also request to open contract discussions throughout the three-year period, he added.
The eight furlough days resulted in a nearly $1.9-million savings to the district. Other portions of the agreement include increasing staffing ratios at the middle and high schools, from 26:1 to 27:1 and 27:1 to 28:1, respectively, at a savings of $864,000; the suspension of the seven-period day at high school ($448,000); suspension of voluntary staff development hours ($380,000); and suspension of the teacher support and training advisory committee ($15,000).
In a statement from APT president Trevor Knaggs, he said an "overwhelming majority" of the members were in favor of the agreement.
"Pleasanton teachers recognize that their district is facing a severe fiscal crisis and have shown by this vote that they are prepared to be part of the solution," he said. "They have agreed to a pay cut and other concessions. Our hope is that the community will also recognize the need for further efforts to preserve the standard of education provided in the Pleasanton Unified School District."
With the concessions, many programs mentioned during public comment portions of recent meetings were able to be spared. These programs include: maintaining class sizes in kindergarten through third grade at 25:1 ($1.3 million) as well as ninth-grade English and Math at 25:1 ($404,000); elementary physical education, science and vocal music specialists ($931,000); elementary reading specialists at one full-time position per site ($720,000); maintaining current counseling services at all levels ($752,000); and restoring the Barton reading program ($106,000).
The PUSD management team also agreed to some concessions by taking five unpaid furlough days in 2010-11 and giving up mileage stipends. This would save the district about $240,000, which they recommend be put towards keeping a vice principal at each high school. Last year, management concessions included three furlough days and mileage stipends.
School board president Chris Grant, as well as other board members, expressed gratitude for the concessions, but hope the community will still move forward in taking action.
"My biggest concern is that the community will say 'OK' about the results of the concessions," he said at Tuesday night's board meeting. "Teachers didn't cause the budgetary situations at the state, nor did the kids or the administration. My message to the community is that this doesn't solve the problem."
The next step, he added, would include a parcel tax. Grant said he's convinced that a parcel tax is needed and that a long-term solution for school funding can't be done by family donations.
Prior to talk of concessions, the school district had estimated their budget deficit to be near $8 million. This figure takes into account $1.3 million of one-time funding that saved programs or the current year, $2.3 million in rollover costs and $3.3 million in loss of funding from the state. This figure could change, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to release his revised budget in May.
The possible cut list still has $8 million in reductions despite the concessions, as the district has to deliver the notices of potential layoff to employees by March 15.
The school board's next regularly meeting on March 9 was cancelled, so they are scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. March 23. There will also be a meeting with the superintendent search firm at 5 p.m. March 15.