By Michael YEGHIAYAN
The leaders of the Glendale Teachers Association and Glendale Unified School District met for a fact-finding hearing on July 16 as part of the ongoing efforts to settle the contract dispute between the two parties. The two argued before a state appointed fact-finding panel, but were unable to reach a suitable resolution.
The neutral panel has 30 days from the hearing to issue an advisory report, which should be released by Aug. 15. Both sides are also mandated to meet at least once more to continue negotiations.
Although both sides are hoping to come to an agreement before Aug. 15, the latest offering by the district was considered inadequate by the GTA.
“Every time the district gives us a new proposal, it requires more concessions,” said GTA president Tami Carlson.
The union also claims that the district has the money to maintain the status quo and partially blames poor budget projections as being responsible for a portion of the financial shortfall. Carlson specifically pointed to previous underestimations of both the district’s beginning balance and general fund.
“The union is aware of the cuts that have been made by the state,” she remarked. “We are willing to make concessions within reason, but I do not believe the fiscal situation is as dire as the district is suggesting.”
Although the advisory report will be presented to both parties in less than a month, the two sides are hoping to produce a suitable compromise before then. GUSD and the GTA have both shown a willingness to settle the dispute as soon as possible.
“The district’s goal is to come to an agreement,” said Deputy Superintendent John Garcia. “These negotiations represent the negative financial impact of the state’s lack of funding for education.”
Another point of contention between the two parties is the duration such cuts would be in effect.
“We don’t want to pass a
permanent solution to a temporary problem. That’s one of our biggest concerns right now,” said Carlson. “This budget crisis is not going to last forever.”
Carlson pointed to changes in administrative philosophy as having contributed to the current tension between the union and the district. Superintendent Michael Escalante recently stepped down from the head of GUSD, making way for Dr. Richard Sheehan to take the position.
“Everything changed with [former Superintendent Michael] Escalante. The district used to care about its teachers, now it seems like they are taking more of a ‘top down’ approach,” she said. “The was just a different climate under [former Superintendent Jim] Brown. I just hope that our new administration understands how important the teachers are to this district.”
Fears are beginning to rise that if a contract is not in place in upcoming months, the possibility of a strike will develop.
“We are taking this one step at a time,” remarked Carlson. “No one wants a strike, but if we are unable to present a worthwhile contract to our members, that option will be put to a vote.”
Another problem facing GUSD is the ongoing contract dispute with the California School Employees Association. Leaders of the CSEA also met with district officials on Monday, July 19. Its members rejected the latest budget offered by the CSEA bargaining team in a vote earlier this summer, creating a second labor stalemate.
The CSEA now looks to the results of the Fact-Finding panel before pushing forward with a new contract. The main points of contention in the new agreement are total jobs, wages, furlough days and healthcare. Members of the CSEA are looking to work with the district without conceding more than is necessary.
“We are not tied to the teachers,” said CSEA president Richard Carol. “At the moment, we are kind of in a holding pattern as the majority has been tentative agreed upon.”