Your CUTA bargaining team and the District met for negotiations on Wednesday, February 26. We continued our negotiations about special education, innovative scheduling at the high school, and compensation, and we discussed confusing contract language about the student-to-counselor ratio.
We continued to work on establishing the parameters of the blended model of RSP students and mild/mod SDC students at the secondary level. In this model, mild/mod SDC secondary teachers could volunteer to become RSP teachers. Additionally, the District will no longer identify students as RSP or mild/mod SDC when they enter secondary; all students will be identified as mild/mod students.
CUTA believes teachers should have a full understanding of what the new model will look like so that teachers interested in volunteering can make an informed decision. We moved closer to a full understanding this week. RSP teachers, both existing and new volunteers, would teach four classes and have a prep period and a case management period. CUTA and the District are moving towards an agreement on a total student contact number in a day, rather than a maximum class size. This is in part to allow teachers to volunteer to teach five classes instead of four to lower their class sizes throughout the day. The District is also wary of setting a maximum class size too low for a brand new program, although they have expressed concern with any class sizes above the low twenties for this program, and they expect most class sizes to be much smaller.
The main development this week is that the District is willing to proceed using a memorandum of understanding (MOU) instead of contract language. Since an MOU is not permanent contract language, current SDC teachers could volunteer to try the new position next year, and if the program did not meet their expectations or other aspects of the program were renegotiated in the final contract language, they could return to their SDC position. Because of the unknown movement of students in a new program like this, it is impossible to guarantee that a teacher choosing to return to SDC would remain at their same site.
In addition, the District has not settled on a final date for SDC teachers to volunteer to make the change, but they plan to push it back as far as possible. E-Board would need to approve the MOU we develop, and teachers will still need to see the final details before deciding.
Innovative Scheduling at the High Schools
At our last negotiations session, the District brought the best offer they felt they could afford for the maximum student contact number. CUTA shared that number with members--204--and many people shared their frustration because they felt it would be impossible to convince two thirds of their colleagues to vote for innovative scheduling with that high of a student contact number.
After further discussion, it appears that CUTA and the District weren’t communicating clearly with each other. The District felt pressured by CUTA to provide a final offer on innovative scheduling. That was not CUTA’s intent. The procedures we developed to govern this process don’t have specific dates or deadlines. More meetings are scheduled to continue the innovative scheduling discussion. We will not be rushing to hold the vote at the sites yet. We will share information as it becomes available.
One new piece of information: The District has agreed that RSP teachers in a block schedule would teach five classes, two preps (like all other teachers), and a case management period. CUTA thanks the District for their willingness to listen to special education teachers' concerns.
CUTA and the District continue to share an interest in the stability gained by a three-year wage agreement. However, according to the District, the raises over the last three years, the state-mandated increases to the District’s STRS contributions, and increasing program costs, including special education, have pushed the District into a deficit. With many unknowns about the state’s budget this year, including a potentially positive change in the way special education will be funded, the District is hesitant to reach a long-term wage agreement at this time. Because of the District’s transparent and honest communication in negotiations, CUTA is willing to keep working on a wage agreement--for next year and the out years--into the fall so that the District can experience greater certainty about the impact of the state budget.
CUTA recognizes the District must remain financially secure by addressing deficits in their budget, and one option that we shared for a three-year compensation agreement involved splitting the new money from the state as part ongoing compensation and part one-time money. CUTA would like to continue using the per-ADA percentage increase to identify compensation increases. For example, in this option, if the per-ADA percentage increase were to be 3% for next year, CUTA would receive 1.5% as an ongoing compensation increase, and CUTA would also receive 1.5% in one-time compensation. This allows the District to use their healthy reserves to cover the one-time money, and they would be able to use their half of the ongoing increases to address their deficit over the life of the wage agreement. The District expressed cautious interest in this idea. We will continue our discussions.
Lastly, we examined confusing contract language that is meant to describe the caseload for secondary counselors and how and when the District is obligated to add additional counselor support. Both CUTA and the District agreed that the current contract language is confusing, but more importantly it doesn’t match current practice. We will try to write new language that correctly describes the current practice.
If you’d like to see the current version of our contract, here is the link.
Thank you for taking the time to stay informed.
Chico Unified Teachers Association
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Mary Schoenthaler serves as Vice President and Public Relations Chair for CUTA.