Negotiations between SRVUSD, teachers stall as SRVEA declares impasse

Salaries, staffing, class sizes among key issues for union as district cites lack of funding amid declining enrollment

Labor negotiations between the San Ramon Valley Unified School District and local teachers have hit a snag, with union negotiators from the San Ramon Valley Education Association declaring that bargaining talks have reached an impasse.

Negotiations are not over as the impasse opens the door for a moderator to come in and attempt to help both sides reach an agreement on a new memorandum of understanding.

The impasse arose out of feelings from SRVEA officials that district management has not been receptive to the priorities laid out by union negotiators, despite SRVUSD leaders having raised their initial pay raise offer by 1%.

“We are stuck. SRVEA needs to know that our interests are part of the negotiation process. SRVEA wants to negotiate, but when we hear the board's tolerance level won't allow for any discussion, we don't have any other option,” SRVEA president Ann Katzburg said during the school board's meeting last Tuesday in Danville.

In a newsletter sent to community members last week, district officials stated they increased their 2018-19 offer to a 3% ongoing salary increase, which would take effect retroactively to July 2018, after originally offering 2% in the fall.

“The district is disheartened by this declaration,” Superintendent Rick Schmitt wrote in a statement to community members. “As we have done successfully for so long, we want to and believe we should be able to reach a mutually acceptable and sustainable resolution through ongoing bargaining sessions through the collective bargaining process, without outside assistance from a state mediator.”

Schmitt added that the 1% increase equates to an additional $2.2 million in expenditures.

For their part, SRVEA representatives stated that salary increase are not the only concerns they have. Smaller class sizes, and increased nurses, librarians and support staff, among other assurances, are all key priorities in ensuring their students receive the best education possible.

“We provided a proposal to management that includes an increase in nurses … looking at ways of attracting quality educators and maintaining better class sizes. Not only for our teachers in the classrooms for our teachers in the classrooms but for our counselors, librarians and other staff as well,” SRVEA secretary Laura Finko said during an interview Friday. “Every proposal that we provide has been meet with them coming back and reiterating the status quo. No change in contract language.”

“When management ignores the breadth of our proposal and speaks only on salary, they are not focused on what's best for students. When management's communication about negotiations mentions students only to say we will have declining enrollment, yet spends four paragraphs on employee salaries, they do not make students a priority,” SRVEA reps added in a statement released on Facebook.

In a statement, SRVUSD said they are open to making “fiscally prudent” investments with the union, but certain budgetary restraints limit the district’s options, and maintaining a balanced budget may require local cuts to avoid deficit spending and dipping into reserves.

One ongoing financial challenge facing the district, according to Schmitt, is declining student enrollment. For every student enrolled in SRVUSD schools, the district receives $8,000; this school year the district saw a decline of nearly 400 students. That equates to a loss of $3.2 million in ongoing state funding, and student enrollment is expected to continue to drop dramatically in the future, according to district staff.

Schmitt said the district is also responsible for “‘turn the page’ expenses for health benefits, step-and-column salary increases, and pension contributions increase,” and that this year these costs increases will approach 4% of total Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) revenue.

These budgetary challenges are compounded by the SRVUSD’s status as the fourth-lowest-funded school district per students in California.

“The district has worked to address these budget challenges through expenditure reductions, including decreases in structural expenses by reducing administrative, certificated and classified staffing through attrition at both the school and district levels,” Schmitt said.

“When they misrepresent finances they do so in opposition to what's best for our students,” SRVEA officials responded. “Management is misunderstanding our priority -- simply said, it is our students.”

SRVEA officials said Schmitt’s comments largely ignore the priorities put forward by the union, which is an ongoing issue according to Katzburg.

Katzburg told that SRVEA members are unified in their support for the key goals of increasing support staff and decreasing class sizes -- citing an interorganizational survey of approximately 1,500 members that overwhelmingly supported the negotiators priorities.

Labor disputes have been erupting in school district throughout the state recently, with the Los Angeles Unified School District strike ending in alternative agreement last week, and more recently teachers are on the verge of striking in Oakland.

Schmitt said those are the potential conflicts that he hopes to avoid in the San Ramon Valley.

“The SRVUSD values the tremendous contributions of all its employees and is committed to investing in its workforce to the extent that it can responsibly afford to do so. In order to protect all that we have worked together to build in this district, we remain fully committed to maintaining fiscal solvency,” he said, adding that he believes the 3% proposal is a responsible investment.

Schmitt’s update on labor negotiations, the district budget, and state funding can be found on the district’s webpage.

SRVEA is hosting two community events to meet with residents and discuss these issues at length. SRVEA community town halls will be held Feb. 28, 7-8:30 p.m., at San Ramon Valley High School, 501 Danville Blvd. in Danville; and March 6, from 7-8:30 p.m. at Dougherty Valley High School, 10550 Albion Road, San Ramon. Interested residents are encouraged to RSVP online.

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30 people like this
Posted by RetiredSouthpaw
a resident of Danville
on Feb 12, 2019 at 12:35 am

This district is always saying we are the 4th lowest funded district in the state, yet Mr. Schmitt is the 15th highest paid superintendent in the state of California. As my neighbor pointed out to me, he will be getting a raise to his almost $400k (with benefits) salary-- You know who hired him at this salary? The Board of Education hired him and approved his salary. While Mr. Schmitt is not an elected official, the board of education members are. They are accountable to the public. I read all about the redistricting happening too. I saw the maps they created. These same people are now gerrymandering the new district boundaries for elections. I respect the time these people have put in for the last 20 years, but it's time for others to serve, with less connections to the district staff to manage this district. Fresh hawk eyes. Such a lack of transparency and disrespect to our teachers and students through mismanagement of funds- that is all going to have an impact on our housing prices too because people move here for the schools. I support our public teachers -- it takes courage to speak up for yourself and our kids.

17 people like this
Posted by SRV Parent
a resident of Danville
on Feb 12, 2019 at 6:14 am

All the lawyers that do work for the school districts of Northern California got the below raises. SRVUSD did not stop that raise which is our tax dollars. With the recent drowning of a student SRVUSD shows they need lawyers more the teachers. This administration still has not created a single policy or shown any accountability for the death of a student.

Motion was made by Kimberly Dennis, seconded by Stacy Lane,
and unanimously carried to approve the following increases effective 11/1/18 to the Defense Attorney Panel
hourly fee schedule as follows:
Partners $200 to $225 (12.5% increase)
Sr. Associates: $175 to $215 (23% increase)
Associates: $150 to $200 (33% increase)
Paralegals: $95 to $110 (15% increase)"

6 people like this
Posted by Bernard
a resident of Alamo
on Feb 12, 2019 at 8:07 am

@SRV Parent

"With the recent drowning of a student, SRVUSD shows they need lawyers more the(sic)teachers".

If the P.E. teacher was doing his job, and not on his cell phone, and did not leave the pool without confirming all the students were out of the pool, they would not need lawyers. It is usually the TEACHER'S actions, or inactions, that lead to the need for lawyers. If the teachers did their job, the district would not need to spend so much money on lawyers trying to clean up the messes they cause.

Of course, the teachers and their union now want to blame the lawyers the district has to hire for the problems, rather than accepting blame for the need for lawyers. Teachers, unlike any other profession, get tenure after only two years of service. Do you think if this P.E. teacher did not have tenure that he would have completely ignored the students in the pool? Knowing that he had tenure and was essentially termination proof, led to the casual negligence attitude about his job.

So teachers, if you want more money, the ball is in your court. Give up tenure, compete every day for your job like every other profession, and the need for lawyers will greatly decrease, with more money available for teacher salaries. Until then, stop crying about your income, and stop blaming the district and their lawyers for the problems you cause.

36 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2019 at 8:38 am

In regard to the drowning of Ben Curry. The district was made aware of the problem on Nov 2017 board meeting by the PE teacher who rescued a drowning kid in his Cal High PE class. The teacher Mr Matthew warned the district that the large class size ( 47 for his class) would result in a death. Ben's class size was 57. Mr Matthew's class was at San Ramon's pool so they had the protection of a life guard and a PE teacher. SRV High pool which is controlled by SRVUSD did not have life guards. SRVUSD worked in hand with Aaron Becker to insure Ben Curry did not have a chance.

I agree with your point about Aaron Becker. He is a stain on any teacher. The district di not take any action against Aaron. He never missed a day of school.

SRVUSD and Aaron Becker caused the need for a lawyer. But you did not address why the lawyer deserve a 33% increase.

19 people like this
Posted by Jen
a resident of Danville
on Feb 12, 2019 at 6:32 pm

Parents, find out the facts. Teacher tenure is NOT like college professor tenure. We are evaluated regularly, have undergo regular training and development and can be FIRED - with cause. We can also be laid off when budget constraints warrant. We are also at the whim of administrators that can move us to a different assignment year to year. Tenure just means that management has to go through due process if there is an issue.

7 people like this
Posted by An SRVHS parent
a resident of Danville
on Feb 12, 2019 at 11:29 pm

“We are evaluated regularly, have undergo regular training and development and can be FIRED - with cause.”

However unlike other profession, teachers can’t be fired for not doing the job they were hired to do: teach. Try raising the issue - you will be met with wall after wall of resistance. There should be a union representing the students rights to be taught instead of relying on tutoring due to the lack of teaching in school.

23 people like this
Posted by SRV Parent
a resident of Danville
on Feb 13, 2019 at 5:51 am

School districts that listen to parents and students take action against the teachers that do not teach. But SRVUSD is not that school district they are so scared to take action. It is not a easy process but it is possible. Do not blame the teachers for how ineffective this administration is. Case in point the past principal of Baldwin Ms Hale which took years to get rid and she sued because the district did not follow procedure. Ten seconds with Google showed she had left her previous position under a dark cloud. The administration's job is to follow the policy and terminate teachers that are not doing their jobs. To blame the bad teachers for not leaving is pointing the finger in the wrong place.

This school district is governed by a school board that does not hold the administration accountable for the bad teachers that remain on the job. The glaring example is Aaron Becker. Arron's behavior rises to the level requiring termination. Does the district think he will just walk away on his own accord.

11 people like this
Posted by Chris
a resident of San Ramon
on Feb 13, 2019 at 9:59 am

@Bernard is your head really so far in the sand that you want to use Aaron Becker to represent every other teacher!? Earth to Bernard, he's SRVHS's head football coach. No way they're firing him during summer camp or mid-season. Heck even a student dying while under his care isn't enough.

As for SRVHS parent's comment "There should be a union representing the students rights to be taught instead of relying on tutoring due to the lack of teaching in school."

I agree that the system is broken when parents have to pay for tutoring in order for their children to compete against student coming from states with the best schools like Massachusetts, New Jersey and Connecticut. Then the question becomes how do we lower class size from 24:1 to 13:1 like the top states have? We'd have to increase staff by 85% to do that which would cost just under $19 billion annually in salaries. Which do you prefer to cover the additional annual expense? raising property taxes by 750% or income taxes by 21%?

1 person likes this
Posted by Parent of 3
a resident of Danville
on Feb 20, 2019 at 2:45 pm

Agree that the Superintendent is paid too much but is a drop in the District, agree that the District is not concerned enough about safety (pool safety, voter access to schools, open gates, lack of security personnel), agree that we should have smaller class size. Most of this can only be solved with more tax dollars going to K-12 schools in CA as has been said and fought for over and over again for YEARS. Given that, must ask why the CTA bothers to strike locally in LA, Oakland, San Ramon etc.? That hurts the kids they say they are trying to help. Must be other reasons for local strikes. They should rally in Sacramento instead because obviously other spending priorities are winning the funding battle. Such a huge mistake. If the money does not come, the only other choice is to cut costs, there are ways to do that, so when do we start looking at those options???

5 people like this
Posted by SRV Parent
a resident of Danville
on Feb 22, 2019 at 6:01 am

Parent of 3: I do not ask my corporate headquarters for a raise. I ask my boss this is why teachers strike locally. It is my boss's job to insure that his budget is large enough to fund a good team.
SRVUSD administrators should be pounding on the door in Sacramento. Why does SRVUSD board and administration bring up the fact we are underfunded. That is their job to insure SRVUSD is getting a fair deal from Sacramento. But they would much rather take the easy road and tell the parents then demand change in Sacramento. Stop asking the parents and teachers to suffer while the SRVUSD administration is not doing what they should to insure we are not one of the lowest funded districts.

The latest 1.1 million grant is an example of what is possible if SRVUSD administration seek money from Sacramento. It is the job of any good boss to look out for his team but I am afraid SRVUSD administration's attitude is more us against them.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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