Newly Elected BCers Emphasize Bargaining, Communication at SDEA Board Retreat

— by Peter Burrell, SDEA Board member-elect and Serra HS CR

The newly elected SDEA Board Members were invited to attend the June 14th SDEA Board planning meeting on June 14, the last official meeting of the SDEA Board of Directors for the 2012-2013 school year. Incoming members met with the current Board to review the existing 2013 Board-approved goals. We analyzed how we felt the goals had been met and were asked to meet in small groups to discuss a draft of goals prepared by SDEA Staff on what our goals for our next session might look like. I found, in what was a rather uneventful meeting, the goals of communication and bargaining the most compelling.

Interestingly, the first of the existing Primary Goals of 2013 was to develop, strengthen, and improve external communications systems. As the strength and unity of the Breakfast Club Reform Caucus bears out, this is still a pressing need. SDEA must improve the two-way communication between leadership and its membership. The Rep. Council question/ answer periods, limited to 15 minutes, have been inadequate in allowing for the free flow discussion that our democratic process requires. This results in unanswered concerns, which fuel feelings of mistrust, discontent, and contempt of the process by many rank and file members.

The second 2013 Primary Goal was to be organized and collectively united for bargaining and to achieve a successor agreement in 2014. Toward this end, SDEA has set in place a Bargaining Commission that will support the efforts of the Bargaining Team. ARs and CRs have been asked to set up worksite committees that will organize the site membership. This structure can unite our membership and lead to successful contractual negotiations. This is a workable plan, provided that we participate at our sites to inform and then help organize our colleagues.

Both of these goals are fine, but unless we have Board members who push to see them implemented, and members who are willing to get involved at our sites, we will see another weak bargaining campaign. As a newly elected Board member who ran on the Breakfast Club slate, I am committed to ensuring that these goals actually become a reality.

In addition to serving on the union Board, I have been appointed as a member of the Bargaining Commission. We will be hosting informational sessions at sites asking membership for their input on the greatest needs to be bargained in the next contract. Through our site teams we need to clarify and prioritize our greatest contractual needs. It is important that our membership speak loudly and clearly. I know that salary and health care are always both at the top. I realize that working conditions are also a great concern.

I will make the case for my three top concerns:

     1. Salary

I earned more in 2003 (with summer school pay) than in 2012. I‘ve taught 35 years and have been at the top of the pay scale since 1996. Veteran teachers’ standard of living has declined in our district and has not kept pace with other districts.  SDUSD is near the bottom of San Diego County school districts’ pay scales. I would argue that salary is also key in keeping and attracting new teachers, many of whom are saddled with crushing student loan debt.

    2. Healthcare

A “total compensation package,” which is what SDUSD has proposed to our district’s classified unions, is a nice way of saying that our pay increases will be eaten each year by increases in our healthcare expenses. Fully paid family healthcare is an essential option for teachers, especially if we want to retain our younger teachers as they start their families.

     3. No Layoffs

SDUSD can no longer use layoffs as a means of balancing their budget. Layoffs are counter productive in so many ways, disrupting a school’s team approach, causing anxiety for teachers who often apply to other districts, and potentially damaging schedule changes for teachers and students alike.

Working conditions matter, too, though I believe economic concerns should be our first priority in negotiations. Class size hard caps are nice, but they didn’t guarantee high school classes at 36. Teachers who had more than 36 were financially compensated, but often continued working with more than 36. Furthermore, often governance bodies are charged with improving working conditions. In reality these groups are used merely to rubber stamp decisions already made by administration. I don’t believe school governance committees are effective voices for teachers on the whole.

In conclusion I encourage you to get involved at your site. Volunteer to be on your site organizing committee. We are all busy people. We can never be too busy not to be our own advocates. Let your opinions be known in this forum! We must stand up for our profession. Otherwise we shouldn’t be surprised when the public doesn’t seem to care.

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