Teachers, parents rally for better pay

More than 200 fill RUSD board meeting
By: Michael Althouse
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A standing-room only crowd numbering more than 200 flooded the Rocklin Unified School District board meeting last week to show support for teachers in their ongoing contract negotiations with the district. Those in attendance were mostly members of the local teachers union, the Rocklin Teachers Professional Association (RTPA), but many parents and students also showed up. Before the meeting, the RTPA held a rally in the parking lot, passing out T-shirts and signs with the slogan, “All kids deserve great teachers – great teachers deserve fair contracts.” Although the teachers, the board and Superintendent Kevin Brown all noted that progress was made in the recent round of mediation held last Monday, the teachers’ salary increase is still on the table. Furthermore, the RTPA is accusing the district of stalling, saying the two sides have met 12 times since last May for a total of about 100 hours of negotiations. According to Joseph McLean, a math teacher at Spring View Middle School and president of the RTPA negotiating team, a settlement was made regarding contractual language regarding workload. In addition to better compensation, the teachers wanted the workload eased for 4-6 grade teachers who are required adhere to two different grade reporting systems and 9-12 grade teachers who, under the current contract, are required to put in 18-21 hours in unpaid “adjunct” hours, according to McLean. The rally, Mclean said, was a way to raise awareness in the community. “The parents and the community don’t know. This is the only way the parents know that there is a problem at the bargaining table,” he said. According to McLean, the state budget provides for a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) to the school districts statewide, but that the RUSD has not been passing these funds down to the teachers. “Last year, the COLA was 6.8 percent and we got 4 percent plus a little on our health insurance,” he said adding, “This year the COLA was 4 percent, but the district only offered 2.04 percent.” “Now that all contract language has been tentatively agreed to, we can continue to work together to determine how we can improve compensation for all employee groups,” Brown said in an email sent to RTPA president Mary Dick. Brown pointed out that RUSD is the only district in Placer County that is not laying off employees and/or making significant cuts to educational programs. Brown and the board maintain that any increase in compensation cannot be determined until after the Governor releases the state budget revision in May. “We agreed that we would meet on May 23 to see if education would be cut,” Brown said. According to Brown, the COLA index takes into account a number of factors, one of which is the standard salary increase teachers get as they gain seniority and credits. In the language of the contract, these standard pay increases are referred to as “step and column” increases. “How would we pay for these steps without COLA?” Brown said. Last year, the teachers received a 4 percent increase on top of their step and column increase of almost 2 percent and nearly three quarters of a percent was added onto their health benefits. Brown indicated that he felt the protest Wednesday was a direct contradiction to the accomplishments made in contract negotiations. “It’s pretty disheartening that the collaborative and positive results in negotiations are reflective of the behavior we are seeing here tonight,” he said. Board president Steve Paul said he was glad to see all the people at the meeting. “I’m very excited to see RTPA and the district come to agreement on contractual language,” Paul said. “We still have one more item and we’ll address that at the next mediation after the state budget is known.” Rocklin High School senior Sam Jaquish, the board’s student representative, said he understood what the teachers were asking for, but was unsure of what the budget would allow. “They are amazing teachers and deserve everything they ask for,” he said. According to one protest organizer and Ruhkala Elementary fourth grade teacher, Adam Salinger, selected teachers and parents would address the board during its public comment section. Although the comments made to the board reflected the overall dissatisfaction the teachers have expressed regarding compensation and the length of time the process has taken, one parent, Wendy Shadowens, abandoned her prepared speech at the last moment. “I had this speech written and then I realized that we’ve said everything there is to say,” Shadowens said. “We feel that we just aren’t being heard – they deserve a fair raise. They are the best and the brightest.”