I attended the SDEA Board meeting on Wednesday, July 11 with the purpose of getting an update on the 83 K-12 teachers who are still laid off. After speaking with Barb Waller, one of the 83 K-12 teachers yet to be recalled, I was angry to hear that when she called SDEA to find out why she hadn’t received a letter yet from the District, she was told by two very unsympathetic staffers on two separate occasions that she should simply file for unemployment. There was no plan to get her called back into the classroom at Muir. This motivated us at the Breakfast Club to get involved. We wrote an article publicizing this information and emailed our member list encouraging them to attend the SDUSD and SDEA board meetings.
Around 12 members attended the SDEA Board meeting. Before the meeting started, members had the opportunity to speak. Several veteran teachers spoke about the financial hardship this new contract has created for them. How they took a pay cut two years ago, haven’t seen a dime added to their paychecks since, and now are looking at the very real prospect of taking an even deeper pay cut for the next two years if the tax initiative doesn’t pass. They expressed the anger, disappointment, and abandonment they felt as a result of this new deal because, while everyone else would continue to receive step increases each year, their wages have stagnated and shrunk while the cost of living has increased. Several expressed their disappointment in the lack of backbone and strength shown by the SDEA Board when faced with the District’s obviously inflated layoffs, and their sense of betrayal resulting from the SDEA Board’s sudden capitulation to the District’s bullying. Teachers felt insulted by the $25,000 retirement incentive because it does not come close to compensating what they will lose because of the new agreement. One teacher spoke of feeling marginalized by her inability to take advantage of the retirement bonus because, while she had the twenty-five years of teaching, she did not have twenty-five years of teaching with SDEA. I asked for an update on the 83 teachers who had not been recalled as we were all told they would be. Four teachers from Fay Elementary also attended and one of them spoke about the need to start strategizing now for next year so that we will be prepared to fight the District when they do this again. She said we need a strong organizing plan and we need it now—and we at the Breakfast Club completely agree.
Before starting the meeting, Bill Freeman addressed some of the member concerns. Addressing the statements that the Board had made an about-face on its “no concessions” stance, he started by telling everyone that he had wanted to survey the membership “six months ago” but that he had been prevented and then said something vague about what prevented him. Well, six months ago it was February and Bill Freeman was campaigning for reelection with the promise to “fight to make sure our fairly negotiated raises and fully-paid family healthcare stay off the table.” So which is it? Six months ago did Bill Freeman want to survey the membership on what concessions we would be willing to take, or did Bill Freeman want to fight to defend our fairly negotiated raises? Because, I voted for the second guy.
Next, Bill continued and talked about his meeting earlier that day with District representatives regarding the 83 K-12 teachers who are still in permanent layoff status. He said it was the position of both SDEA and the District that “all positions will be recalled”. He stated that the Human Resources Department said they were “down staff” and this was causing a slow down in getting members recalled. The District Finance Department was also represented in this meeting. Bill said that since there would be no financial savings for the District by waiting until September to recall laid off members, that the District should recall them now.
While I think it’s great that both the District and SDEA have taken the position that all members will be recalled, I am not reassured by this information. Positions on important issues seem to shift rather rapidly these days and we need to make sure that we pay attention and stay vocal until everyone is actually called back. Which, by the way, the District does NOT have any financial incentive to do until the last possible day in September because they will in fact save money by waiting. Why? Because our new contract agrees to pay for the healthcare benefits of members still in layoff status. Why would the District call them back sooner and foot the bill themselves when we have so willingly agreed to pay their way?
Next, Bill addressed the issue of the retirement incentive of $25,000. He stated that a number of individuals had told him they would be willing to retire if they could just get “something” from the District before going and this was why the incentive was created. He said that he had only become aware of the issue that the incentive only applied to people with 25 years in SDEA while he was in Washington for the NEA conference and that he had called the district to work on changing this to apply to all members with 25 years, regardless of how many years were within SDEA. He said that he would like to see incentive payouts prioritized by 1) Members who have retirement papers submitted. 2) Members with 25+ years and he is asking the District to make this applicable to non-SDEA years as well. 3) Other members with less than 25 years who are at the top of the pay scale. Why didn’t Bill know that the incentive was only available to educators with 25 years of SDEA service? It was written quite clearly that way in the TA. We hope that SDEA does indeed carry through on the plan to expand this part of the TA.
During the discussion of Action Item 4.3 and 4.4 regarding approving increased labor costs for the auditorium renovation and approving money to install a new speaker system, I was surprised that several Board members were opposed to spending additional money. The proposed speaker system was only for $500 and yet there was a good amount of discussion about it. While I’m glad to see our Board carefully considering how to spend our dues dollars, I also wondered where this thoughtfulness had been before voting to fire SDEA Executive Director Craig Leedham and thereby putting us in a position to be financially devastated by a lawsuit. Where was their thriftiness then?
There were several other items discussed, but I didn’t write everything down. Even though we have repeatedly asked that meeting minutes be shared online so that membership can read them, this has yet to happen. We have also repeatedly asked for advance notice of dates, times, and agendas for upcoming SDEA Board meetings be posted, which has also yet to happen.
In the meantime, we’ll continue to publicize the dates of these meetings, and will plan to attend to make sure that our elected union leadership are making better decisions than they have these past five months.
—Shane Parmely, SDUSD Teacher