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Teachers, District Still Far Apart As Talks Resume

Written by Marc Albert, Alameda Sun, March 29, 2007

Stalled contract talks between the school district and teacher's union are set to resume today, but a wide gulf remains over health insurance and salaries.

The contract between the Alameda Education Association, the union representing teachers at Alameda's public schools and the district expired in July.

Teachers are working under an automatic contract extension and are negotiating for terms that would apply retroactively to when the previous contract expired.

Glenda McDowell, chief negotiator for the teachers said the district hasn't been particularly responsive. "They cancelled our last negotiation session. I would say [talks] are kind of stalled right now." When asked to describe the tone of meetings up until now, McDowell responded, "it's not friendly, it's not contentious, it's just a lack of a response on their part right now," she said.

Brandon Krueger, chief of human resources at the Alameda Unified School District admitted that the district had not submitted a proposal covering wages and benefits. "We are putting a proposal together," he said.

Krueger said the next contract would likely run until 2009.

Krueger said hostility has been largely absent from negotiations. "I think that it's more cordial than that," he said.

Citing the sensitivity of the negotiating process, Krueger said he could not elaborate.

When negotiators last met on Feb. 13, union officials presented their own proposal. McDowell said the district has not, as of yet, responded.

McDowell said the union wants to update the safety and technology clauses in their contract, which she said have remained largely unchanged since the 1970s.

The district said it has reached tentative agreements with the union on discipline and special education.

The remaining sticking points are wages and benefits. Alameda's teachers, while drawing better salaries than their Oakland colleagues, are typically earning less than teachers in most East Bay school districts.

McDowell said the majority of districts in Alameda County have recently tendered annual wage increases of more than 5 percent.

But Alameda Unified, which cut its annual operating budget by $1.4 million earlier this month and has cut $6.3 million over the last six years, may have issues meeting the union's demands. The district's stated goal is "to provide a salary increase within the district's financial ability and means," according to an official document.

McDowell, while acknowledging the district's contention that higher costs for things like electricity have eaten into the district's finances, said teachers face the same rising expenses in their household budgets.

Rising health care premiums and co-payments are also a chief concern of the union. In recent years, Alameda's teachers have had to dip further into their own pockets to cover costs once paid entirely by the district.

Citing medical coverage from the California Public Employee Retirement System, which McDowell said many teachers have, out of pocket costs have risen dramatically. McDowell said that prior to 2004 the district paid the entire premium for single teachers. By 2006, teachers were forced to pay $1,019 annually for the same coverage. Couples, who were paying $2,958 for premiums in 2004, now pay $5,008. At the same time, co-payments for visits to a medical provider have also gone up, according to McDowell.

"Historically, districts covered people well, although the pay was low. Now, we're just getting hit left and right. It's like a double whammy," McDowell said.

"We now have a decrease in salary, because the cost our health benefits have gone up and the district isn't contributing more money," she said.


Teachers Declare Talks at Impasse

Written by Marc Albert, Alameda Sun, April 6, 2007

Representatives of Alameda's teacher's union declared contract talks at an impasse after district officials offered raises falling well below inflation.

Representatives of Alameda's teacher's union declared contract talks at an impasse after district officials offered raises falling well below inflation.

The heated words in Alameda come as Hayward teachers set out for picket lines instead of classrooms today. Over 1,300 teachers and other Hayward Unified School District employees will strike barring a last minute agreement.

Contract talks between the Alameda Unified School District and teachers have dragged on for 13 months as officials try hammering out an agreement. During the course of 19 bargaining sessions, AUSD and the teacher's union, the Alameda Education Association, have discussed important but largely peripheral issues compared to salary and health benefits.

Last Thursday, the district offered no increase in salaries or benefits for the current school year, a 1 percent increase next year and a 3 percent increase the following year.

In February, the union suggested 4 percent raises this year, with future increases linked to whatever additional state funding the district receives. The union proposal also sought the full costs of the health plan be paid by the district.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bay Area consumer prices have increased an average 3.5 percent annually over the last decade.

School district officials recently cut their annual budget and say the funds for a more generous wage and benefit package simply do not exist.

"The district calculates their proposal to result in approximately a 22 percent increase by the end of three years. That approximately equates to $8.3 million at the end of the three years," said Brandon Krueger, the district's head of human resources. "Given our current financial state, we can't afford that," Krueger said.

Immediately following last Thursday's talks, union officials fired off a statement declaring talks at an impasse. The school board issued its own statement disagreeing, and expressing bewilderment. "The AUSD negotiating team was surprised by this announcement and does not believe negotiations are at a point of impasse."

"I don't agree with that. We waited two months for a proposal and their wage proposal was egregious. We waited two months for their proposal and it was full of takeaways," said Glenda McDowell, the teachers' chief negotiator.

If a state board agrees and declares an impasse, a mediator will be appointed. If the board refuses to declare an impasse, the negotiating teams will continue to meet. "At this point it is clear we need a third person moderator because we've had such little movement," McDowell said.

The union accused the district of proposing to unfairly slash the amount of paid time elementary school teachers will have to prepare lesson plans or grade papers. The union accused the district of wanting to cut so-called "prep time" by between 25 percent and 50 percent depending on grade level for elementary school teachers.

The union also claims that proposed "district-directed collaborative time," will either require a longer workday or come at the expense of recess periods for students.

Krueger said news of a Hayward teachers strike doesn't concern the district.

McDowell said a strike is a long way off and is something everyone wants to avoid.

"We are definitely on a road that could lead us [to a strike], but it's not our goal. None of us want a strike. Teachers don't want one, the district doesn't, the parents, the children, nobody," she said.

Any agreement will be retroactive to July 2006 when the previous contract expired.

The next scheduled meeting between the two sides is April 17.


Teachers ask state to supply mediator

Union seeks 4 percent pay increase, full medical coverage; district 'hopeful' to resume talks soon

Written by Peter Hegarty, Alameda Journal, April 6, 2007

The union representing Alameda teachers says contract talks with the school district have reached an impasse and it has asked the state to appoint a mediator.

While both sides have reached tentative agreement on a portion of the contract, which expired in July, the talks have stalled over the issue of a pay raise and medical benefits.

The announcement of an impasse follows union and district officials meeting 19 times during the past 13 months.

"There's been a lot of time and energy put into it," said teacher Glenda McDowell, the chief negotiator for the Alameda Education Association. "But at this point there's been no movement. I think it's time to bring in a third party."

The union's call for an outside mediator on March 29 surprised district officials, who said they had offered a benefits and salary proposal during talks earlier the same day.

The teachers did not discuss or respond to the district's offer during the session, according to Brandon Krueger, the district's chief human resources officer.

But he was confident that the issue could be resolved.

"We are hopeful that we will have the opportunity to discuss our proposal with AEA and that we will be back at the table soon to continue negotiating an agreement," Krueger said.

McDowell said the union wants a 4 percent pay increase and for the district to pay full medical costs. The district has offered no increase this year, 1 percent next year and 3 percent the following year and to pay only a portion of the medical costs.

The state Public Employment Relations Board will appoint the mediator if it agrees that an impasse has been reached. But if the board disagrees, both sides must return to the table.

The state's decision likely will come within the next few weeks.

Alameda teachers have asked for outside help in their contract talks three times since 2001.

The stalled negotiations come in the wake of the school board trimming about $1.4 million from the district's budget in February, saying that it was facing a shortfall over declining enrollment, a complex state-funding system and long-declining aid from the federal government.

The budget woes limit the kind of salary package that the district can offer, school officials said.

But McDowell said the union is asking for less than what teachers in most other Alameda County districts are receiving to help offset cost of living increases.

The union's call for a mediator comes as Hayward teachers are staging a two-day strike after their contract talks broke down. It began Thursday.

Alameda teachers will not begin picketing anytime soon, McDowell said.

"A strike isn't going to serve anyone's interest," she said. "I am hopeful that we'll be able to find common ground before we reach that point."


Teachers seethe as school districts reach impasse

Written by Nanette Asimov, San Francisco Chronicle, April 7, 2007

As Hayward teachers walked the picket line for a second day Friday, labor disputes between school employees and administrators also simmered angrily in half a dozen other Bay Area school districts.

Although none are yet on the cusp of a strike, all have reached the same state of official impasse that the Hayward Unified School district and its teachers were in last fall. Under state law, "impasse" triggers mediation and arbitration. A strike is permitted only if those efforts fail.

"Teachers are angry. We feel disrespected," said teacher Melinda Dart, co-president of the Jefferson Elementary School District's union in Daly City, where teachers voted Thursday night to declare an impasse.

Soaring health insurance costs are at the root of the Daly City dispute, as they are in at least three other local districts at impasse: John Swett Unified in Rodeo, Antioch Unified and the San Mateo Union High School District.

Also at impasse are the San Mateo-Foster City Elementary District and Burlingame Unified.

Education experts blame not only rising insurance costs, but California's arcane system of school finance -- declared deeply flawed in a recent Stanford University analysis because districts can't tell how much money they'll have from one year to the next.

"We're getting contacted by more school districts to assist," said Sheila Vickers, associate vice president of School Services of California, a company that helps districts with their finances.

In the John Swett district, where the top salary is $66,000 after 26 years, the district is offering teachers a 3 percent raise but wants to pay less for health care.

Teachers are fighting the reduction and want an 8.5 percent raise, said union President Dean Colombo.

"We are organizing for a strike," he said.

District representatives did not return calls. The sides are now choosing a neutral evaluator, the last step before a possible strike.

The San Mateo Union High School District has been at impasse since November, said union President Craig Childress. The average salary is $75,000, and teachers are angry about a district plan for them to start contributing up to $600 a month for health insurance.

Although costs rose 12 percent, Childress blames the fiscal squeeze on mismanagement.

He said the district is $80 million in the red because it overspent on construction projects -- then refused to include debt relief in the $298 million construction bond measure passed in the fall.

The district referred questions to Associate Superintendent Ethel Konopka, who declined to comment on negotiations or finances.

In Daly City, where teachers say they haven't had a raise in six years, union president Dart said employees want to accept the district's offer of a 3 percent raise. The problem, again, is health care.

Dart said teachers, who earn an average of $55,000, are angry because the district won't boost its monthly health insurance contribution to $700 from $650. She said teachers pay hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket.

District officials did not return calls.

How likely is it that teachers in these districts will strike?

Not likely, said Mike Kirst, professor emeritus of education at Stanford University. Once, strikes were common, with dozens across the country at any one time.

"Now you're down to five or 10," Kirst said. "A significant trend is the lack of strikes."

Parents may love their children's teachers, he said, but they want their kids in school.

In Hayward, parents are keeping most students home -- at least at the beginning. And next week, students will be on spring break anyway.

Hayward teachers want a 16 percent raise over two years.

The district is offering a one-time 3 percent bonus, a 7 percent increase in July, and another 1.6 percent if other savings are realized.

Meanwhile, tempers flared on the second day of the strike.

Sunni Ali Shabazz, a substitute teacher at Palma Ceia Elementary, said he ran into an angry group when he tried to cross the picket line. Some pounded his car, and when he got out, "they bumped me and called me 'scab,' " he said.

He filed a police report and went home.

In another incident, substitutes apparently blundered by giving children a secure test to take home.

Striking teacher Donna Goldenstein, who helped develop the test, was furious. She said the district paid $30,000 on it, and letting children take it home "invalidates the test," she said.

But perhaps what made teachers most angry was that among those who plan to take a spring break vacation next week is Superintendent Dale Vigil.

"Everyone's going away on vacation," Vigil shrugged. "It's vacation week, and I'm not part of the negotiation team. I'm a phone call away."

Union leaders saw it differently.

"Here he is, the leader of the district, leaving in the middle of a crisis," said union President Kathleen Crummey. "He gets paid a quarter of a million dollars to run a school district. Instead he's running away.

"I think it's horrible."


Island schools' talks stall over pay, benefits

Mediator appointed as negotiations hit impasse

Written by Peter Hegarty, Alameda Times Star, April 18, 2007

ALAMEDA — State officials have found that contract talks between teachers and the Alameda Unified School District have reached an impasse, clearing the way for the appointment of a mediator.

District officials said they learned Monday that the Public Employment Relations Board agreed with teachers that the talks have broken down over the issues of a pay raise and medical benefits.

"I wasn't surprised," said Glenda McDowell of the Alameda Education Association, which represents the district's 650 teachers.

"We made our best effort up to this point and we cannot go any further without outside help."

The union's March 29 request for a mediator surprised school district officials, who said they had put an offer on the table the same day.

"Our position was always that we wanted to continue working the process," district spokeswoman Donna Fletchersaid. "But we now look forward to making progress with the mediator."

The two sides have met 19 times in about the past 13 months. The contract expired in July.

McDowell said teachers want a 4 percent pay raise and for the district to pay full medical costs.

The 10,151-student, 18-campus district has offered no increase this year, 1 percent next year and 3 percent the following year. It currently pays a portion of the medical costs and offered no new proposal during the current talks, McDowell said.

The union identified the state mediator as Seymour Kramer and the first session is set for May 10.

If the mediator cannot get both sides to reach an agreement, then the talks will move to "fact finding," when each side must provide data supporting their positions.

Alameda teachers have asked for outside help in their contract talks three times since 2001.

The stalled negotiations come in the wake of the school board trimming about $1.4 million from the district's budget in February, saying that it was facing a shortfall over declining enrollment, a complex state-funding system and long-declining aid from the federal government.

The budget woes limit the kind of salary package the district can offer, school official said.

But McDowell said the union is still asking for less than what teachers in most other Alameda County districts are paid to help offset cost of living increases.


State to Mediate Contract Dispute with District

Written by Marc Albert, Alameda Sun, April 20, 2007

State officials declared contract talks between the Alameda Unified School District and the teacher’s union at an impasse Friday and assigned a state mediator to the stalled negotiations.

A bargaining session set for Tuesday was abruptly cancelled.

The first meeting with an official from the state’s Mediation and Conciliation Service presiding is scheduled for May 10, according to Glenda McDowell, chief negotiator for the teachers union, known as the Alameda Education Association.

The impasse finding by state officials is something of a defeat for school district officials who maintained earlier this month that no impasse existed and expressed astonishment that AEA asked for mediation.

“The AUSD negotiating team was surprised by the announcement and does not believe negotiations are at the point of impasse,” reads a statement posted on the district’s Web site.

Contract talks have dragged on for more than a year.

The two sides remain far apart on wage and health benefit proposals. Teachers have asked for a one-time 4 percent increase with future raises linked to state funding increases. District officials responded last month, offering essentially a 4 percent raise spread over three years. Teachers are seeking to have the district pay a larger share of health insurance costs, while the district wants teachers to pay more.

McDowell said having a mediator isn’t necessarily a victory for the AEA but it may encourage more flexibility from the district. “The [mediator’s] goal is to get an agreement; they don’t care if it is fair or not, they just want a settlement,” she said. “I think at this point the district has to be more aware of the situation.”

Brandon Krueger, head of the district’s human resources and AUSD’s lead negotiator said the district was awaiting state oversight of the negotiations.

“At this time, AUSD is looking forward to working with the assigned mediator who will facilitate the process of AUSD and AEA coming to a tentative agreement.”

Asked if the district was prepared to revise its offer, Krueger responded after a lengthy pause, “I’m not going to say no or yes. We really need to hear what the mediator has to say to help us through this.”


Teachers Demand More from State Negotiators

Written by Marc Albert, Alameda Sun, May 10, 2007

About 150 Alameda teachers packed Tuesday's school board meeting in a show of force ahead of today's first negotiating session before a state mediator.

"We need to become a priority; we are education in Alameda," Alameda Education Association President Earl Rivard told the board of education.

Teachers are demanding higher pay and better health benefits, which school officials maintain they cannot afford.

"We need you to figure out how to figure it out," Rivard said after calling the board's wage offer "an insult."


Teachers march in search of contract

Union seeks pay increase and help with medical expenses; district offers no raise this year

By Peter Hegarty, Alameda Journal, May 11, 2007

Hundreds of Alameda teachers demonstrated outside the school district's main office after classes ended Thursday, calling on district officials to make a better offer in their ongoing contract talks.

The rally came as leaders of the Alameda Education Association and school district officials met for the first time with a state mediator to help jump-start the stalled talks.

Negotiations have stalled over the issue of a pay raise and medical benefits. The contract expired in July.

"Morale is low," said Bob Moorhead, an English and drama teacher at Encinal High School. "There's no incentive for new teachers to come and work in Alameda when they can get a better deal somewhere else."

Glenda McDowell, the chief negotiator for the teachers, said the 600-teacher union declared the talks at an impasse in March after they met with district officials 19 times during the previous 13 months.

The teachers want a 4 percent pay increase and for the district to pay full medical costs, McDowell said.

The district has offered no pay raise this year, 1 percent next year and 3 percent the following year. It currently pays a portion of the medical costs and offered no new proposal during the current talks, according to McDowell.

"Zero, that says a lot," said Rob Stein, who teaches English at Alameda High School. "It's especially hard for teachers with young families trying to make ends meet."

Superintendent Ardella Dailey declined to comment on what the district has put on the table.

"We're in meditation," Dailey said Thursday. "But I'm hopeful that we'll reach a solution."

The union identified the state mediator as Seymour Kramer.

If Kramer cannot get both sides to reach an agreement, then the talks will move to a "fact finding" phase when each side must provide data supporting their positions.

Alameda teachers have asked for outside help in their contract talks three times since 2001.

The stalled negotiations come in the wake of the school board trimming about $1.4 million from the district's budget in February, saying that it was facing a shortfall due to declining enrollment, a complex state-funding system and long-declining aid from the federal government.

The budget woes limit the kind of salary package that the 10,151-student district can offer, school official say.

But McDowell said the union is asking for less than what teachers in most other Alameda County districts are receiving to help offset cost-of-living increases.

During the rally, teachers paraded in front of the district office, holding signs and chanting slogans.


Teachers, District Gap Still Exist

Written by Marc Albert, Alameda Sun, May 17, 2007

School district and teacher representatives met for eight hours May 10 with the aid of a state appointed mediator, but a breakthrough remains elusive.

School district and teacher representatives met for eight hours May 10 with the aid of a state appointed mediator, but a breakthrough remains elusive.

"The session seemed to be productive and collaborative as both parties reviewed their positions and background information with the mediator," said Brandon Krueger, human resources chief at the Alameda Unified School District. "The mediator wanted to know where we started and where we are now," he said.

Krueger said confidentiality rules regarding negotiations under state mediation barred him from elaborating on the details.

Teachers are seeking higher salaries and for the district to pick up more of the health care costs. The district has responded by offering a contract with no wage increases or changes to the health care plan.

School district officials are studying revisions to the state budget issued earlier this week, which could impact funding for Alameda's public schools. Luz Cazáres, the district's chief financial officer, is expected to release a report to the school board Tuesday.

Ronald Johnson, an Alameda Education Association representative who teaches at Lincoln Middle School, said teacher morale is dropping as the talks drag on. The contract between the union and the district ended last year. "It's unfortunate, it's this continuous thing we have to do, you get hired to teach but you end up having to fight for your job at the same time," Johnson said.

Dean Fryer, a spokesperson for the California Department of Industrial Relations, said the mediator can help, but is not empowered to impose a settlement. "The only thing I can lay out is that we are an independent body that is invited in ... it's up to them to take advantage of our services," he said.

The next mediation session is set for May 25.


Where's the support?

Letter to the Editors, Alameda Sun, May 17, 2007


The trustees — the trusted ones — elected by the residents of Alameda to their board of education, have three tasks: to educate the children of the town, to balance budgetary resources available and to fairly compensate their employees in order to attract and retain practitioners of the highest quality.

Our community would never tolerate the board's delinquency in its first charge. Were there to be any evidence that our children's education was deteriorating, the town would be up in arms. Bravo!

Nor would the townspeople let the school board jeopardize local control of our educational enterprise by neglecting its fiscal responsibility. Three cheers for Alameda!

Why, then, does the town so blithely accept the board's delinquency in its remaining basic responsibility? Why do Alamedans let the board go year after year with zero-percent pay-raise offers? Where was the people's support when the district's obligation to fully implement its last meager raise was delayed 22 months, a raise that was won only after a costly, contentious arbitration?

We are, after all, the ones who actually deliver that high quality education to Alameda's children. That balanced budget must have among its highest priorities the fully fair compensation of the women and men who make education happen in this lovely hamlet.

Instead, we are being told yet again this year — after every other district option has been more highly prioritized than we — "Oops! Sorry! There's no money left!"

The silence from the community is deafening.

— Earl Rivard, President,

Alameda Education Association


Money talks, except for AUSD

Letter to the Editors, Alameda Journal, May 18, 2007

We tell our children to say what they mean.

We tell them to mean what they say.

Sometimes, they say that they are, and we can tell that it's true.

At other times, they claim to be doing so, but we can tell the difference.

In the end, it is not so much what we say as what we do that really counts.

The Alameda Unified School District says that one of its three 'Core Values' is "... to recruit and retain highly qualified, competitively compensated employees."

In 2003-2004, AUSD offered its 'valued' employees a 0 percent raise.

In 2004-2005, it again offered 0 percent.

In 2005-2006, AUSD at first said that, by its calculations, the negotiated Salary Formula rendered less than 0 percent. A judge eventually made AUSD pay 4.7 percent, which it fully honored only after a 22-month delay.

In 2006-2007: AUSD received an 8 percent per-student increase in funding from the state.

All other Alameda County school districts -- most of which are in 'declining enrollment,' just like Alameda Unified -- have already granted their teachers raises. Those raises have averaged more than 6 percent.

AUSD is, once more, offering 0 percent.

Do you think that they don't really mean what they say?

Or, is it that they don't really say what they mean?

In the final analysis, the distinction is academic.

Earl Rivard

President, Alameda Education Association


Teachers, District Continue Sparring

Written by Marc Albert, Alameda Sun, May 24, 2007

Teachers ratcheted up pressure on the school district Tuesday, accusing the district of mismanagement and excoriating a presentation on the district's financial travails.

"There is no money budgeted for salary increases for 2007-08 or 2008-09," said Carlene Naylor, assistant superintendent of business at the Alameda County Department of Education. "If you make any type of salary settlement you have to have a positive fund balance," she said.

Naylor and her boss, county schools chief Sheila Jordan, delivered a veiled warning to the city's school district board that the board must comply with county's budgetary criteria. Naylor warned that if the board fails to produce a satisfactory budget, one with a 3 percent emergency reserve, among other requirements, the county would appoint an overseer to assure that it does.

Glenda McDonald, the Alameda Education Association's (AEA) chief contract negotiator, called Naylor and Jordan's presentations a "dog-and-pony show ... it just seems so orchestrated to have all of this come out right now," McDonald said.

AEA members, who have been working under a continuation clause in a contract that officially expired nearly a year ago, have been in ongoing negotiations with the district that so far have failed to bear fruit. About 180 teachers packed the school board's meeting room beyond capacity. As they filed in, teachers piled Red Delicious apples one by one in front of school board directors.

Alameda teachers lined up outside City Hall before Tuesday’s school board meeting. Teachers continue to press their case for higher wages and better health benefits.

"It does seem somewhat staged that they brought in someone from the county to come out and say that they had to have a 3 percent reserve and it's why they don't have money for teachers," said Amy McGuire, an Alameda High School teacher. "We get such glowing reviews as a district and for our test scores ... the people who deliver such excellence deserve compensation that reflects that," McGuire said.

District negotiators have presented teachers with a contract proposal without a salary increase in the first year and a 1 percent raise in the second year.

Teacher William Dodge handed out flyers accusing the district of mismanaging its budget. Dodge said that according to research he performed on the Web site www.ed-data.k12.ca.us Alameda Unified received $8,904 per student. The figure is considerably more than the $7,640 and $8,323 received by Fremont and Hayward respectively, districts with which Alameda Unified often compares itself.

But Dodge's figures are largely irrelevant according to the district. Donna Fletcher, a spokeswoman for AUSD, said Dodge included money that the district receives for specific purposes: funds that can't be redirected to teacher salaries. Fletcher said the "Revenue Limit Per Average Daily Attendance" was a more important statistic than the gross revenue per student that Dodge compared. Fletcher said that the amount of unrestricted funds received by the district is among the lowest in the county. "We actually do receive less money for schools than any other district in Alameda County, except one," she said.

But according to the Ed Data Web site, in the 2005-2006 school year, Alameda received $5,344 in funding classified as "Revenue Limit Per Average Daily Attendance." Five districts in the county received more and eight districts received less.

Dodge's leaflet also claimed that schools are losing qualified teachers because Alameda's salaries don't measure up. According to the leaflet, starting teachers earn $38,081 in Alameda, compared to $49,275 in Fremont and $47,522 in Hayward.

According to the Ed Data site, the average Alameda teacher earned $58,545 in the 2005-2006 school year. That ranks Alameda 11th out of 14 districts in the county in terms of average teacher pay.

Fletcher admitted that the Revenue Limit Per Average Daily Attendance figure does not include funds collected by Alameda's $189- per-parcel school tax. However, language in the voter-approved measure stated that funds raised by the tax could be used to attract and retain qualified teachers.

Several teachers said that if the district must economize, administrators should be the ones tightening their belts. "The waste is at the district office," said Karen Keegan, president of the California School Employee Association Local 27, which represents support staff. "Not one single person was cut. All 32 cuts were made at school sites. If I am not mistaken, this is a school district. Students are our customers," she said. According to Keegan, 32 district employees have had their work hours reduced or eliminated.


Alameda teachers bring apples to school board

Educators say they want public to be aware of contract issues

Written by Alan Lopez, Alameda Journal, May 25, 2007

More than 150 Alameda school teachers indulged in some political theater this week that will result in extra apples in the lunches of some children in the school district.

On Tuesday night, teachers one-by-one placed the red, delicious fruit on the dais of the Alameda School Board. The apples sat in front of the board members the entire rest of the meeting.

Teachers Want; a 4 percent pay increase and for the District to pay full medical costs.
District Offering;The District has offered no pay raise this year, 1 percent next year and three percent the following year

It was the second time this month that members of the Alameda Education Association rallied to make their presence known to the public. On May 10, hundreds of Alameda teachers demonstrated outside the school district's main office, calling for a better offer in their contract talks.

"We want the public to know that we are in negotiations," said Bay Farm Elementary School teacher Aisling Malone, who helped organize the show. "And we do want a fair contract and we want their support."

Negotiations have stalled over the issues of pay raises and medical benefits, according to the teachers union.

Teachers want a 4 percent pay increase and the district to pay full medical costs. The district has offered no pay raise this year, 1 percent next year and 3 percent the following year, according to the union.

The next round of negotiation talks between the teachers union and the school district were scheduled today. The teachers have been without a contract since July.

The district also is facing budget problems that required a $1.4 million cut in February.

An estimated 175 school teachers, many wearing red and white, packed the school board meeting. After being asked to thin out because of fire code concerns, they left en masse, in a show of solidarity, teachers said. Some teachers, wanting to make what were at times emotional public comments, stayed in the room.

"I think that's part and parcel of what negotiations do," school board member Bill Schaff said, following the meeting. "They're trying to have their voice heard and that's . . . the democratic process. It tends to be an emotional time."

At the end of Tuesday night's meeting, Schaff, who also sits on the board of the fundraising group of the Alameda Education Foundation, said he plans to donate a $3,000 matching grant to that organization's new "adopt-a-teacher" program.

That effort, like the adopt-a-classroom program, will give grants to teachers who have spent money out-of-pocket for their own education or their classrooms, he said.

The beginning of the meeting included a report from the Alameda County Office of Education on fiscal oversight responsibility.

There also was a detailed presentation on how the school district budget works; a report on the governor's May revise budget; and the appointment of three administrative positions: the director of curriculum, K-12; director of English language development and categorical programs; and director of regional occupation programs/Alameda Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) post-secondary options.



Alameda must provide fair wages to teachers

By Ann Casper, Alameda Journal, May 25, 2007

I am writing as a parent, community member and teacher to explain why AUSD can and must provide a fair wage and benefit package to its teachers.

1. Teachers are the core of our educational system. Although providing quality education requires invaluable assistance from site support personnel and guidance from an effective administration, teachers are the ones who daily plan and deliver the lessons, evaluate work, and inspire, urge, cajole, and where necessary, push students to do and be their best.

2. Alameda has an excellent school system that is worth protecting. Many of us moved to Alameda because AUSD's reputation meant we could send our children to public school. Alameda has a surprisingly large percentage of teachers who live in the community. Property values are high in Alameda because our public schools are so good. Most of our schools are above average in their Accountability Progress Index (API) scores, the basis of California's public school ranking system. In fact, eight of our 21 schools received the highest score of 10 last year, two more received 9s, two were 8s, two were 7s.

3. We are losing good teachers because they cannot afford to work in Alameda. Alameda teachers have fled to neighboring districts paying up to $20,000 more. AUSD's pay scale is in the bottom third of Bay Area districts. Since 2002, teachers' out-of-pocket monthly contributions to health benefits have increased astronomically, eradicating step increases and raises. (For my family of four, those payments have gone from $78.94 to $672.50 per month.)

4. AUSD has funding for a raise for teachers, if it chooses to value them as it should. While there is no question that AUSD receives less state funding per pupil than many other California districts, it did receive an 8 percent per pupil increase for 2006-07, including approximately 5.5 percent in COLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) funds.

According to the district, that increase has been spent and there is nothing to offer teachers. AUSD is projected to get a 41/2 percent COLA for 2007-08 and a 2 percent COLA for 2008-09. These increases could and should be passed on directly to employees, as per the purpose of COLA increases, and as the two districts receiving less money per pupil from the state than Alameda did for 2006-07. (Those districts, Fremont and San Ramon, gave teachers salary increases of 6.5 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively, for 2006-07.)

5. Teachers are frustrated with the district's disrespect and public "blaming" of teachers for its budget shortfalls. During last fall's frenzied budget-cut process, the district repeatedly asserted that the shortfall and impending cuts were caused by a salary increase for teachers. The district neglected, however, to clarify several key points.

First, that salary increase was for 2005-06, the last year of the previous three-year contract between AEA (the teachers' union) and AUSD, and the only year in which teachers received a salary increase under that contract. The increase was to be a percentage of any new COLA and other funds coming into the district's general fund.

When it was time to pay the agreed increase in August, 2005, the district claimed that there were no such funds. AEA was forced to go to arbitration (a costly endeavor for both the district and AEA), and a decision in the teachers' favor was issued at the end of the 2005-06 school year.

In other words, throughout 2004-05 and 2005-06, the district chose not to set aside money it knew would be needed to pay teachers for the negotiated salary increase, which turned out to be 4.7 percent and was the only increase under that contract (2003-06).

Second, the district has neglected to explain that all other employees, including management, received that same 4.7 percent salary increase because of "me too" clauses in their union or individual employment contracts, which tie their increases to ones negotiated by AEA.

Certainly, management employees, who earn far more than teachers and support staff, and for whom "me too clauses" are discretionary, could have volunteered to forego their increases in light of the extreme budget crisis that their poor planning caused. Such a "we're in this with you," "no hard feelings" demonstration would have gone a long way to buy back teacher goodwill.

As a parent, community member, and teacher, I want the district held accountable for budgeting wisely. In the same way that responsible personal budgeting requires setting aside money to pay the rent or mortgage first, so too the district can and should set aside a fair and reasonable increase for its teacher and support staff core.

Alameda High teacher Karen Roemer contributed to this commentary. Ann Casper is a longtime Alameda resident and a nine-year AUSD teacher. Before becoming a teacher Casper was an attorney for 13 years, practicing criminal defense law initially, and then labor and employment law.


The support is all around

Letter to the Editors, Alameda Sun, May 31, 2007


Earl Rivard’s letter in the May 17 issue of the Sun (“Where’s the support?”) asks where the support from parents and the community for Alameda’s teachers is. I’ll tell you where — they are adopting classrooms through the Alameda Education Foundation, contributing directly to classroom teachers, organizing rummage sales, potlucks, movie fundraisers, bake sales, back to school nights, open houses, holding huge events to support arts in the school, volunteering in classrooms, shopping at e-scrip businesses, collecting boxtops, and saving Towne Centre receipts. In general, they are devoting untold thousands of hours, and untold thousands of dollars to support the schools, their programs, and yes, most importantly of all, the teachers. Alameda parents and community members have successfully passed not one, but two bond measures that allowed the members of Rivard’s union to receive, admittedly, a meager raise they obtained in the last collective bargaining agreement. They have held the school district’s feet to the fire on budget issues related to school closings, special education needs, staffing issues, and countless other matters, large and small.

As vitally important as the teachers are to our children’s education, they are only one piece of the puzzle. We have to work with and support the entire institution for Alameda public schools to accomplish what we expect of them, and we have, we do and we will. When you have completed negotiations on the current contract, please take a look around, and you’ll see the remarkable, committed support that Alamedans provide to our teachers and our schools. Deafening silence? I think we speak pretty darn well for ourselves.

— Paul Mahler


District, teachers tentatively agree

Mediator credited with helping parties reach three-year deal; details to be revealed after June 5 union vote

Written by Alan Lopez, Alameda Journal, June 1, 2007

A tentative three-year contract has been reached between the teachers union and the Alameda Unified School District, but both sides are keeping quiet for now about the details.

The agreement, announced in a news release Wednesday, was reached after a mediation session on Friday. After the agreement was reached, a special closed session to brief the Board of Education was set for Thursday.

"We (the board) gave parameters to the negotiating team that they've been able to stick to," school board member Mike McMahon said. "I'm pleased we were able to get this far in the process. It's much better than the alternative, that's for sure."

The Alameda Education Association has about 600 full-time employees and includes counselors and speech therapists, according to union president Earl Rivard.

The union, which has been without a contract since July, had been lobbying for 4 percent pay raise and for the district to pay full medical costs.

The negotiating came on the heels of a February vote by the school board to trim $1.4 million from its budget to bridge a deficit.

Both sides say they will release the details of the tentative agreement after a June 5 vote by union members.

"We went into the mediation session with the district hopeful that we would be able to resolve our differences and come up with a tentative agreement," Rivard said. "And we were pleased we were able to do so."

McMahon credited state mediator Seymour Kramer for bringing the two sides closer together. Kramer was called in after the union said the talks were at an impasse in March.

"There was a full year of negotiations, and within two meetings he was able to bring both sides to a place where they agree," McMahon said. "He did an excellent job."

In May, up to 150 teachers rallied twice in public for a fair contract. During the May 22 school board meeting, they placed apples on the dais of the members. The demonstration was followed by sometimes emotional public comment.

Despite the lobbying, McMahon said the tone of the conversation was much more civil than it was four years ago, the last time the union and the school district failed to immediately settle a contract. He credited Rivard's leadership.

"His actions were consistent with his words and it related to respect," McMahon said. "He didn't allow it to become a personal issue."


Alameda Teachers Vote on Contract

Reported by Holly Quan, KCBS, June 6, 2007

Listen to report.

ALAMEDA, Calif. (KCBS) -- The union representing teachers in Alameda has extended voting on a tentative, three-year contract hammered out last week.

The city’s 600 Alameda teachers, counselors, and speech therapists have been working without a contract since last July.

The union wanted a four percent raise and comprehensive health coverage, but the district it could not handle the cost, according to Earl Rivard, president of the Alameda Education Association.

“We’re in a very tight place. We’re the second least well-funded district in all of Alameda County. At the same time, we have a community that values its schools and supports its teachers and its schools.”

He noted the closure of the Navy base has sent the district into a downward spiral. The district has lost 500 students and $4.5 million since 2000, according to district officials.

“We’re projecting less than one kid per household right now, which is dramatically lower than your prior developments back in the 80s. It’s just the nature of people who can afford homes. New homes in the Bay Area tend to have smaller families,” said school board member Mike McMahon.

Both sides agreed not to release details of the contract until voting, originally scheduled to end yesterday, had concluded. The union extended voting to 4:30 today and said results would be released tonight.

The union and the school board have called the negotiation “successful.”


Contract Voted On; Some Teachers Upset

Written by Marc Albert, Alameda Sun, June 7, 2007

Alameda’s teachers had until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday to vote up or down on a contract proposal that could end months of increasing acrimony between the school district and its employees.

The proposal falls short of earlier union demands that the district give teachers significant wage increases and cover a larger share of health care costs.

Members of the Alameda Education Association, the union representing Alameda’s public school teachers and some other staff, have been working under an automatic extension since their contract expired last July.

“The thing is, you can’t get money where there is no money,” said Glenda McDowell, the AEA’s chief negotiator. “They had money coming in from the state, but they already spent it ... I think it’s the best settlement we could get with the district that meets both our needs and the districts needs,” McDowell said.

Under the tentative three-year contract proposal, reached May 25, there would be no retroactive increase for the fiscal year now ending. Teachers would receive a 1 percent raise July 1 and another 1 percent in January 2008. A further 3 percent increase would take effect in July 2008. Another 1 percent increase would go towards health care costs beginning in December 2008.

As health care premiums and co-payments have increased, some teachers complain that their total compensation has actually declined, even as salaries have inched up. “Our medical costs have gone up between $100 and $150 per month every year for the past five years,” said teacher and single mom Connie Chapman. “My salary right now, even after two salary step increases, is only just now getting back to where I was five years ago.”

Chapman said the district pays just over half of her health care premiums.

Even with her reservations, if Chapman’s opinion is typical of rank-and-file teachers, the AEA’s dispute with the district should be over soon. “I voted to ratify it because I believe that the AEA negotiating team did the best they could . . . if this is their recommendation, then I feel I have to support them,” she said.

A feeling that the contract would be resolved was also shared over at district headquarters. “I’m optimistic and look forward to hearing the results,” said Alameda Unified School District spokeswoman Donna Fletcher. “The mediation worked really well and worked really quickly to bring the parties together.”

Nevertheless, it may take time before the district and teachers are on entirely friendly terms. “I think our negotiating team did an awesome job, they did they best that they could ... that being said, it is not what we deserve. The district needs to wake up and put us in the budget and not have us as an afterthought,” said Kimberly Hare, a teacher at Lum Elementary.


Alameda teachers approve new contract

Deal gives salary bumps next month, twice in 2008

Written by Alan Lopez, Alameda Journal, June 7, 2007

Alameda teachers Wednesday night overwhelmingly approved a three-year contract that will give them a 3 percent raise beginning in July 2008, after 1 percent raises next month and in January 2008.

The terms of the contract were presented to several hundred teachers at the Alameda High School cafeteria on Tuesday afternoon. Union members had until 4:30 p.m. Wednesday to vote on the proposal.

Eighty-five percent of union members who voted approved the contract, said Bill Dodge, a member of the executive board for the Alameda Education Association.

"Eighty-five percent is excellent and the turnout is the best we've ever had," Dodge said. "It was amazing. We're quite pleased."

The union, which represents about 600 teachers, counselors and others, had been without a contract since July. An impasse was declared between the union and the Alameda Unified School District in March.

The teachers union had been lobbying for a 4 percent raise. The contract offers no retroactive pay raise for 2006-2007 and staggered 1 percent raises beginning this July and again in January.

In December 2008, teachers will receive an increase to their benefits cap equivalent to 1 percent of their salary costs.

Given district budget difficulties, union leaders and negotiators cautioned members on Tuesday that the contract was the best they could get.

"Reality dictates that if you have $200 in your checkbook, you can't write a check for $400," said Rich Boyd, a bargaining specialist with the California Teachers Association, and a consultant to the union in its negotiations. Declining enrollment, a complex state-funding system and long-declining aid from the federal government are the primary reasons for the district's budget problems.

In February, the school board trimmed $1.4 million from the budget, resulting in the cutting of the hours of 32 classified workers.

In addition to salaries, the contract covers teacher disciplinary action, special education, technology use, teacher evaluations, safety measures and days off.

Some union members voiced skepticism over the deal and were critical of the district.

Following the meeting, Encinal High School English teacher Peter Baer said he believed the vote would be close.

"The big thing a lot of people are upset about is the zero percent retroactive," said Baer, who also serves on the executive board of the Alameda Teachers Association. It's hard to vote for zero.

"To me at least, it was explained clearly why it was that way, which was why I voted 'yes.' But a lot of people may not feel that way."

On the phone from the union office Wednesday night, Dodge, a liaison between the union and the three middle schools, sounded both elated by the contract approval and frustrated with negotiations that dragged on for 11 months.

He said teachers will become more involved in how the district spends its money overall.

That may begin as early as Tuesday night, when the Alameda School Board is scheduled to ratify the new contract.


Teachers, Staff Vent Anger at School Board

Written by Johnathan Opet, Alameda Sun, June 14, 2007

Ireful teachers confronted the board of education Tuesday night, upset about a tentative agreement reached between the teacher's union and the school district's bargaining team.

One teacher said the school district was in "a financial death spiral."

Some classified employees' representatives also spoke to the school board about how the district's widely publicized financial woes have affected its employees.

Karen Keegan, president of the school district's Classified School Employees Association, an employee union, said recent staff lay-offs will negatively affect students.

"Just remember who will be hurt — it will be the students," she said. "And remember who did it."

Earlier this year, the board of education accepted a recommendation from Superintendent Ardella Dailey to reduce next year's budget by $1.4 million.

Dailey tried to assuage the hard feelings by saying: "We need to work together as a community."

She later said: "As families do, we will come together."

But adding to the personnel problems within the district is the current teacher's contract negotiating saga, which had seen school district officials remain staunch in the face of emotional rhetoric from union leaders.

School district officials said there was no money for the salary increases teachers had been asking for.

Last Wednesday, teacher's overwhelmingly approved a contract that falls well below their demands, but teacher's union president Earl Rivard has said the affirmative vote was not a sign of approval.

Other teachers made similar remarks.

"This ... does most certainly not mean that a majority of the employees think what you offered was anywhere what they deserved," said Lincoln Middle School teacher Herb Hartwig.

Hartwig accused the school district of mismanaging its budget.

"Trim the pork," he said.


Teachers Deserve a Living Wage

Written by Casey Friedman, Alameda Sun, June 14, 2007

There has been a lot of news coverage about the Alameda Unified School District in the last few months — and years, for that matter. The good news has unfortunately been overshadowed by the bad.

There has been a lot of news coverage about the Alameda Unified School District in the last few months — and years, for that matter. The good news has unfortunately been overshadowed by the bad.

For the seventh consecutive year, AUSD has been compelled to scale back its programs dramatically. Last year that meant closing elementary schools. This year, it means shutting counselors’ doors to the students who need them.

What’s truly bizarre about the whole business, though, is that it comes among one of the better financial periods for education in the state of California. Much unlike teachers’ wages, the amount of money provided for each student increased at a rate considerably ahead of inflation.

And yet, many prominent district officials insinuate, if not outright claim, that the teachers’ righteous demands for fair pay are instead stubborn and selfish refusals to take up their part of the financial burden the whole district must bear. This is, of course, a blatant falsity. Like any members of the workforce, teachers have at least the basic right to a real wage that does not decrease, as theirs has done in recent years.

It would be equally criminal, however, to denounce the district officials or the board of education. They are, after all, democratically chosen servants of Alameda with nothing to gain from crippling our youth.

The real culprit, as it were, is bureaucratic inertia and resistance to change. It is the very nature of administrative offices to grow fat by the cancerous accretion of positions and responsibilities.

To its credit, AUSD saved a meaningful chunk of money this year by streamlining its bureaucracy during the budget crisis, but the underlying problems remain. However many times “creative solutions” were discussed at the public workshops, no district official will pursue it without the driving force of a motivated denizen breathing down his or her neck.

Alamedans should not expect a permanent solution in Alameda. In fact, Alamedans should not expect a permanent solution at all. The only way we will ever get a successful system of education is by constant, dedicated involvement in so-called political affairs. Nothing else will ever work.


Point not well taken

Letter to Editor, Alameda Sun, June 14, 2007


How discouraging that someone as obviously caring and competent as the community member who responded to my May 17 letter to the Sun (“Where’s the support?”) could have so thoroughly missed my point. But miss it he did — so spectacularly as to have proven it.

In that letter, I congratulated Alamedans on their vigilance in keeping the school district in line on two of its central missions (the education of Alameda’s children and the requirement of fiscal solvency), but asked why they fail to do the same regarding the district’s third charge (fairly and fully compensating its workers).

In responding, the community member names the many ways in which our community supports the schools (e-scrip, adopt-a-classroom, fund-raisers, parcel taxes, etc.); this is the very support of the children’s education that I had gratefully applauded.

The community member also notes with real (and deserved) pride, “We hold their feet to the fire on budget issues … .” That would be the fiscal oversight I specifically and explicitly praised in my letter.

In closing, however, the community member admonishes me, saying, “When you have completed negotiations on the current contract, please take a look around.” For the third time, what I had said is confirmed: when it comes to our negotiations, we are on our own. That was the very point about which I was concerned.

Well, we have finished our negotiations. The teachers selflessly accepted our executive board’s recommendation that they support their bargaining team in ratifying our tentative agreement with the district. The point that must not be missed in this show of internal solidarity, however, is that all of us — bargaining team, executive board and membership — know that we have been shorted. That we have come to accept this as “the best possible deal under the circumstances” does not mean that any of us think that it was fair.

In a year of an 8-percent-per-student funding increase (2006-07), your teachers were again forced to accept absolutely zero increase in our compensation, an unfortunately and indefensibly common occurrence in our dealings with the school board. Alameda’s was the second highest rate of funding increase in Alameda County this year. Yet, we were the last district to settle, and the only one in which the teachers were forced to settle for no raise. The average raise in the county for this year was over 6 percent!

So, no, dear and appreciated community member, despite the other good things which I had already acknowledged and which you took the time to reiterate, I still can’t hear the community’s defense of justice on the part of its children’s educators.

Earl Rivard

President, Alameda Education Association


Open letter to Board of Education

Letter to Editor, Alameda Journal, June 15, 2007

Are Alameda Schools in a financial death spiral? According to the California education Web site Ed. Source, Alameda schools receive more average gross dollars per student than other districts. 2005-06 gross dollars per student: Alameda, $8,904; Fremont, $7,640; Hayward, $8,323.

Teachers at Fremont and Hayward received a significant salary increase in 2006-07. 2005-06 salaries: Alameda, $38,081; Fremont, $49,275; Hayward, $47,522. 2006-07 Salary increase: Alameda, 0.0 percent; Fremont, 6.5 percent; Hayward, 11 percent.

But Alameda has offered its teachers a zero percent increase for 2006-07. With inflation running at 3 percent, this translates into a 3 percent cut in Alameda teacher salaries. Alameda schools' office workers have also had to cut hours and positions to help balance the budget. Yet the superintendent and administrators have not suffered the same cuts of teachers and of office workers.

There is no freeze on hiring new administrators. Retired administrators and consultants are paid $1,000 per day. Alameda administrators continue to receive top salaries and perks. For example, the recently posted director of maintenance can receive an annual salary up to $129,000 plus a car allowance.

If Alameda schools are truly in financial straits, as the Alameda County Superintendent recently said, then the responsibility for "righting the ship" must not only fall on the backs of teachers and office workers, but also on the superintendent and administrators.

Because teachers will be taking a 3 percent cut in their income by not keeping up with the 3 percent annual inflation, we think that the superintendent and administrators should also donate 3 percent of their salary to help balance the budget. This just seems fair. It is all about the children, isn't it?

Lincoln Middle School Teachers: Herb Hartwig, Ronald Johnson, Alan L. Bell, Kimberly Kennedy, William Dodge, Sharyn Loshakoff, Rick James


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Last modified: May, 2007

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