Nearly 300 union members of the San Ramon Valley Education Association held a rally outside of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District’s Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night, showing support for union representatives during labor negotiations and protesting a perceived lack of support from district management.
From the union’s perspective class sizes and a lack of honest communication from the district have become the key sticking points during ongoing labor negotiations, while district officials say declining enrollment and a lack of state funding impose restrictions on what the district can realistically afford.
“When we think about best class sizes we think lowering the student-teacher ratio. But what they have done is raise the student-teacher ratio in TK through 5 as well as in our (Special Day Class) classes, so they are putting our most vulnerable students at risk,” SRVEA negotiator DeDe Judice said. “Things are not going well this year compared to last year. We stand strong for our students. The whole vibe, everything from this year to last year, has changed and it's all based on broken promises.”
During a meditation session for both sides on Monday -- the same day SRVEA members authorized union leaders to call a strike if negotiations break down -- district officials offered its “last, best, and final package offer” to SRVEA for a new contract, which was rejected by the union.
According to the district, that offer included changing the staffing ratio for middle school counselors from 650:1 to 600:1, hiring five full-time school psychologists, a new stipend for educators who have earned a doctoral degree and an ongoing 2.56% salary increase -- 0.06% of which is devoted to the Retired Employee Benefits Trust -- among other provisions.
“If the district were to agree to all of SRVEA’s current proposals, the district would be on a path to insolvency,” district officials said in a statement. “Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to address SRVEA’s interests and remain fiscally responsible, SRVEA’s bargaining team rejected the offer and requested certification to fact finding, the next stage of this process. The district’s team reiterated its interest in continuing to negotiate with SRVEA as we proceed into fact finding.”
SRVEA leaders say they took particular issue with the district’s proposal to increase class sizes to 27 students in grades TK to 3 and 33 students in grades 4 to 5. Union leaders also stated the district refuses to use designated money from last year’s agreement to improve class sizes.
“We want to make sure we preserve small class sizes. Our most vulnerable students in our special education classrooms need small class sizes to meet their needs. Our elementary students thrive in classrooms with smaller classes, which are the best learning conditions,” SRVEA President Ann Katzburg said.
Attendees at Tuesday’s rally further expressed a lack of confidence in the ability of district management to meet the needs of teachers and students, with Gale Ranch Middle School’s Spencer Erickson saying he was “Not confident at all. (District management) haven’t shown us that they are willing to negotiate for the things (we need).”
“I haven’t been confident in them for some time, but I am optimistic that hopefully that will change. That's why we’re all out here. We’re here for our students,” he added.
After the rally, which was held outside of the SRVUSD offices in Danville, SRVEA members packed the halls of the Board of Education’s meeting room while district officials conducted their regularly scheduled meeting.
The board’s decision to table their discussion on whether or not to support the California Schools and Local Communities Funding Act of 2020 -- an initiative which could raise $4.5 billion for K-12 education and community colleges -- in order to gather more information was meet with outrage from the teachers in attendance.
SRVEA members claimed that money acquired from the act, which has yet to garner enough traction to be placed on the November ballot, could be used to fully fund the union’s proposals. However, district officials said they were just doing their due diligence and the tabling is not necessarily a denial of support.
“I am gravely concerned about any initiative that can have unintended consequences that we do not know about and takes a two-thirds vote of the general public to reverse,” board member Rachel Hurd said at the meeting.
AS labor negotiations continue, SRVEA will be holding two community town halls for residents to learn more about the process, with the first scheduled for Feb. 26 in the Dougherty Valley High School library and the second on March 12 at the San Ramon Valley High School library. Both events will be held from 7:30-8:30 p.m. Learn more at www.srvea.org.