Tensions between the Turlock Teachers Association and Turlock Unified School District Administration, namely Superintendent Sonny Da Marto, have just gone to a new level.
On Tuesday, the TTA, which represents more than 700 teachers in TUSD, will hold a “call to action” rally at the Board of Trustee meeting at 6 p.m. in response to labor negotiations that appear to be breaking down quickly, possibly threatening a teacher strike.
TTA issued a press release stating in the past year they have filed five separate complaints with the State of California Public Employee Relations Board (PERB), but current contract negotiations between TTA and TUSD seems to have pushed matters to the boiling point.
“TTA members are not only fed up with the attitude and actions of the District, but have now become genuinely angry with the disrespect shown to us with the lack of negotiations and the proposed contract language under ‘Hours of Work,’” said TTA President and Turlock High School German and English Teacher Julie Shipman.
TUSD is mandating teachers remain on campus after school until school site principals determine when they can leave — with no exact determination what those hours might be.
In the current contract negotiations TUSD mandates, “Employees shall remain on duty at the school building until they have completed all professional responsibilities as determined by the site principal."
That is followed by a list of nearly all teachers professional duties they already complete outside of normal classroom hours, including curriculum planning, Student Study Team or Individualized Education Plan meetings, remediation and enrichment for an individual student as appropriate.
It is fair to say that teachers have one of the more unique professions in that the vast majority of teachers often work “off the clock” performing professional duties such as grading papers and tests, and preparing lesson plans on their own time.
Shipman made the point that teachers have lives.
“They are grading papers while doing laundry and making dinner. They have kids to pick up from school or daycare, soccer practice, dentist and doctor appointments,” she said. “For them to leave it open-ended just shows their level of respect for us as people and professionals.”
Shipman says TTA representatives visited each school site throughout TUSD and reported that discontent amongst teachers is growing.
“Teachers are tired of feeling not respected and not valued as professionals,” said Shipman.
Despite TUSD Administration claims that negotiations are progressing in a positive manner, Shipman says negotiations are actually going backwards and she described the antics by TUSD Administration as “pigheaded.”
TUSD Admin Already Under the Gun with PERB
The TTA and TUSD administration have a clear history of problems. In the past two years, five claims have been filed with PERB, which has already issued a finding against the district in response to the teachers’ December 2013 filing. In this filing, the charge is that the district disrupted the education process and violated its contractual obligations by involuntarily transferring seven teachers just two days before the start of a new school year.
“Teachers were given inadequate time to prepare new lessons for students in different grades and subjects than they had been teaching. They were expected to pack up their old classrooms, set up their new ones, and be prepared to teach a brand new grade level in two days. Both students and teachers suffered,” PERB determined.
Four other charges are currently pending findings from PERB:
- The district has prevented teachers from receiving salary credit for completing postgraduate coursework and professional development courses aimed at enhancing their teaching skills.
- The district has refused to negotiate with teachers over the implementation of the new, ambitious national Common Core State Standards designed to ensure California students are prepared for the educational and vocational challenges of the 21st century.
- The district has, in violation of law, refused to provide information to teachers supporting the wholesale transfer of one-third of Crowell Elementary School’s general education teachers. The actions disrupted the educational environment and hurt students, teachers emphasize.
- The district, also in violation of law and its contract with its teachers, unilaterally eliminated teacher preparation time used by educators to grade final exams and compute and record students’ final grades.
TUSD Could be a “Renegade District,” Teachers can Strike
“The TUSD’s unconscionable violation of state law is harming our students, undermining the educational mission, and hurting teachers,” said Shipman. “The District has become increasingly more and more difficult to work with over the last 5-6 years.”
The number and severity of the charges could lead PERB to declare TUSD to be a “renegade” district, a declaration that would allow teachers to strike in response to the district’s illegal behavior.
Under standard bargaining process, if the district refuses to reach a fair agreement with its teachers, an “impasse” can be declared. An impasse procedure brings in a state mediator, who shuttles between the two sides, hoping to forge an agreement. If impasse does not result in a new agreement, both sides head to “fact finding” in which a three-person panel hears testimony and issues a non-binding ruling. Following fact finding, a district gains the power to implement its “last, best offer” and teachers gain the right to strike in response, a so-called “economic strike.”
The TUSD Board of Trustees will meet 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 18 at the Professional Development Center, 1100 Cahill Ave.