In a show of support of their union negotiators, several hundred members of the San Ramon Valley Education Association donned their red union colors and gathered out front of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District headquarters while the school board held its closed-session meeting Tuesday evening.
For the past several weeks, SRVEA negotiators continue to negotiate with district officials over various aspects of teacher employment, such as pay raises and retirement contributions. After three meetings, however, the district remains steadfast on its original offer of a 2% increase in overall compensation for the 2018-19 school year -- to the dismay of union representatives.
“All three (meetings) have been professional, amicable, collaborative,” SRVUSD spokeswoman Elizabeth Graswich said. “We’re looking forward to continuing to meet and have communications with them and bringing our negotiations to a fair and reasonable settlement.”
Union officials are not yet content with the offer made by the district. SRVEA president Ann Katzburg said that while the process is still ongoing her members deserve more.
“We have asked in our proposal for a lot more in funding than they are offering us. They offered us 2% ongoing for this one year, and they offered us 0% for next year,” Katzburg said. “When it comes right down to it, our district's reserves are increasing but were not seeing that in this proposal.”
The district’s proposal includes a salary increase, increase in medical premiums and cash-in-lieu of medical, and statutory increases in contribution rates to employee retirement plans, to take effect retroactively on July 1 of this year. District officials say these benefits will result in far more than 2% increases in overall compensation for employees
Katzburg says that pay increases are not the only priority facing her union, and the lack of adequate nurse staffing, increased classroom size, among other issues are key priorities negotiators are advocating for.
Katzburg went on to say that due to the high cost of living in the San Ramon Valley, many teachers struggle to afford homes within their district, resulting in many needing to take a second or third job to afford their mortgages.
One such teacher is Kimberley Gilles, an English teacher at Monte Vista High School, who in 2014 was honored with a National Teacher of Excellence Award from the National Education Association Foundation. She said she still can not afford to live in the district despite having a second job.
“They won't pay us, but they will talk about how wonderful we are how essential we are, and I want to say this; I am not a martyr, I am not a missionary, I am a professional, I want to be compensated like a professional,” Gilles said at the SRVEA rally.
In a statement released to teachers and parents, Superintendent Rick Schmitt pointed out that while SRVUSD is the fourth lowest funded unified school district per student in the state of California, the district still strives to adequately compensate its teachers.
“Despite this reality, the Board of Education and this administration continually strive to prioritize and are committed to providing fair and competitive compensation to our employees. In fact, despite receiving tens of millions of dollars less each year from the state than many surrounding school districts, SRVUSD has provided, and continues to provide, one of the highest total compensation packages - i.e., salary, health and welfare benefits, and retirement contributions - for employees in the region,” Schmitt wrote.
With a fourth meeting between SRVEA and SRVUSD negotiators tentatively scheduled for Oct. 30, union negotiators called on their members to stay motivated and prepare for a longer process.
“We need to be respected, we need to be valued, we need to be able to afford where we work and we need to be able to keep up with inflation and the cost of living in this area. The unfortunate part is the only way we can do that is by coming out here and making some noise,” said SRVEA’s lead negotiator Robert Gendron