The long negotiation season for Culver City Unified’s teachers and support staff came to a close Tuesday night, as the district and the Association of Classified Employees (ACE) agreed upon contract changes for the 2011-12 school year at the Board of Education meeting.
The most notable items in the contract included restoring the locksmith and heating ventilation and air conditioning technician positions, as well as the agreement for ACE members to take six unpaid furlough days. These topics have been among the most contentious to arise during school board meetings in recent months, with parents and teachers alike coming to board meetings to advocate for positions that they feel are necessary for the students’ scholastic well-being.
The elementary school librarians at La Ballona, Farragut and El Rincon Elementary schools were also restored to seven-hour positions versus the five-hour days that were stipulated on the original cut list. To keep things equitable, Linwood Howe and El Marino librarians will also be back to seven-hour days, said Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Leslie Lockhart.
Per Association of Classified Employees President Debbie Hamme, the agreement for six furlough days—which totals $240,000 in savings for the district—was made on the condition of restoring a number of positions that were on the original cut list to the district.
"I think that we finally reached a conclusion that made us happy in that we were able to bring back people who were laid off and save their jobs," Hamme said. "I do feel like the process was strained and protracted this year, and I would like to see it different next year.
"Do I think that things should be done better next year? Absolutely. Am I glad that we were able to get people’s jobs back? Absolutely. The process is never perfect, but I think we can improve on it."
Another problem on the horizon that district employees will have to be concerned about is a rise in medical benefit costs in January, as stipulated by CalPers. Currently, district employees are responsible for paying upwards of 52 percent of their medical benefit costs. With the rise—and the pay cut as the result of furlough days—Hamme said that some employees "can barely afford to feed their families."
The contract that was agreed upon at the Tuesday meeting will have to wait until September to be ratified as the majority of ACE members are on vacation, Hamme said.
In other negotiation news, the Culver City Federation of Teachers and the school district recently agreed on its contract for the 2011-2012 year, which included six unpaid furlough days for the district’s teachers as well as snap-back language in case additional funds come into the district. Elementary teachers will have nine "meeting-free" Wednesdays for additional preparatory time. CCUSD also agreed to complete a retirement incentive analysis by January 2012.
In addition, almost all of the 19.2 pink slips that were passed out in March were rescinded as of the Tuesday Board of Education meeting; the district is bringing back 18.6 teachers from the original cut list for the 2011-2012 school year.
“The big issue coming out of these talks—I think—is the question of how CCUSD will deal with the ongoing budget crunch?” Culver City Federation of Teachers President David Mielke said. “Many districts are making cuts to administration as they try to spend the few dollars they have close to the kids. Cutting administration can result in cutting fewer student learning days.
“Here, this board has simply refused to make significant administrative cuts. Their response to the crisis is simply to shorten the student learning year.”
The accusation that the district has “refused” to make cuts to administration is a frequent hot topic brought up by teachers and parents during Board of Education meetings.
In reply, Lockhart affirmed that all employees take furlough days, and that last year 225-day administrative employees—which include the high school principal as well as the director of human resources—took six days when everyone else took five.
District furlough days for administration, teachers and staff will save the district $1,105,000 for the 2011-2012 school year.
“Everyone is taking furlough days,” Lockhart said. “No matter what, if you work in Culver City Unified School District, you’re taking a furlough day.”
While fifth grade teacher Casey Chabola said he was content with the teacher agreement, he added: “One of the big issues is that every year we have to fight to get some extra minutes for preparatory time.” He said that he wished that elementary teacher prep time was written into a memorandum of understanding between the district and its teachers.
Now that negotiations are complete, it remains to the district and its staff to schedule the furlough days as the district’s students roll into the hot summer days. However, given the approval of the state budget this week, mid-year reductions to the school budget are still a possibility if state revenues do not increase as expected, according to Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Ali Delawalla.