Union and District reach agreement

STAFF+STANDS+STRONG+%E2%80%93+Teachers+and+staff+members+meet+during+lunch+to+receive+updates+on+negotiations.

Xing Yen Quek

STAFF STANDS STRONG – Teachers and staff members meet during lunch to receive updates on negotiations.

After several months of struggle, which caused teachers to temporarily drop clubs and activities outside of instructional time, the teachers and district have finally reached a tentative agreement.

The settlement between the Walnut Valley Educator’s Association and the Walnut Valley Unified School District officials settles the long-running contract dispute.

The proposals described in this provisional agreement were agreed during mediation. It includes two furlough days in this current school year, four in the next, and four in the 2014-2015 school year. If site D, a district-owned piece of land which is currently in escrow, sells, there is also the possibility that two furlough days from the next school year and four furlough days for the 2014-2015 will be removed. Other specific details are still in the process of being discussed.

These terms will go through a final voting process by the union in the near future and by the district on Feb. 6 at a school board meeting. However, negotiations could be reopened as soon as Dec. 10.

Due to the district being in impasse, both parties had to participate in several mediations with the state mediator, Loretta van der Pol. The district, which was not willing to negotiate before declaring impasse, reconsidered the budget status due to the release of the Governor’s Proposed Budget Summary, which indicates that there will be more money available for education and will be specified in the May Revise.

Prior to the involvement of the mediator, the district, requiring six furlough days this year and nine the next two years, refused to compromise. As an act of protest, teachers temporarily stopped club activity, suspended outside of class extra help, and refused to write teacher recommendations. “We are trying to bring awareness to what teachers do that they do not get paid for as a way to for us to make a point. Teachers do an incredible amount of additional work that [they] are not paid for. If they are paid to do a job, they still have to contractually do that job,” Salli Collins, a WVEA negotiator, commented.  Teachers still taught during instructional time but were not required by the contract to participate in any other activities. “We are not here to hurt students. We just want to get to normalcy which includes doing all those additional activities,” Collins said.

Upset with the  interruption of club activities, members of the Chinese American Parent Association expressed their concern and demanded district involvement. In response, the district appointed Diamond Bar High School Principal Catherine Real as a temporary advisor to the clubs without one. This was done in an effort to allow clubs to meet so they can stay active.                 “[This event] affected the school a lot. I know that it has stressed out every part of this community. I think relations have been damaged which is harder to fix than a couple of furlough days. These furlough days were preventable. If the district continues to deficit spend and they come to us to balance their budget, [the situation] will be worse,” Angela Jensvold, the head representative of WVEA, said.