The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Negotiations Over District and Union Contract Begin

The District Teacher Association (DTA) and the MVLA district are in the process of negotiating the changes for the 2012-2013 DTA union contract. The DTA is the negotiating body that represents all teaching staff throughout the district. The teacher’s union and the district originally planned to make these changes when the last contract expired in June 2012, but did not reach an agreement on the terms. Negotiations are ongoing, but since there have been no new agreements since last year, the district and the DTA are operating under the most recent contract.

Before starting the contract discussions, both parties received training in the negotiation process. The district and the DTA both agreed to use a method of negotiating called interest-based bargaining.

“In interest-based bargaining, it’s not about winning or losing,” Associate Superintendent for Personnel and Technology Steve Hope said. “It’s about designing some solution that will meet the interests of both parties. It doesn’t always end up there, but that’s the philosophical idea.”

The district and the DTA decided on the discussion topics in a private meeting.

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Then, at the public board meeting on Wednesday, March 13, the district opened the discussion topics to public comment. No public comments were made and the discussion topics were passed. The district and the DTA agreed on eight different negotiation topics: compensation increase for teachers represented by the DTA, teacher workload, selection and assignment of the department coordinators, differentiated duty hours for unit members, retirement program options, evaluation process, conforming the contract language to current practices and legal requirements and paid leaves.

The first negotiation issue is increasing compensation for teachers in medical benefits, salaries, pension costs and medical benefits upon retirement.

The issue of teacher workload covers concerns that both the DTA and the MVLA board have about the increase of class sizes and the workload that accompanies this increase.

On the issue of selecting department coordinators, the DTA wants to develop a system that creates leaders throughout the staff and increases the opportunities to become a department coordinator at the school. The district’s interests include reviewing changes in department coordination, revising the Special Education Department structure at the school and addressing the role of department representation.

The district looks to address the issue of staff workload by differentiating teacher schedules from the non-instructional member schedules. The DTA is looking for a solution that will create more flexible hours for teachers.

The retirement program issue encompasses the district’s goal to retain a quality teaching staff and the DTA’s goal to improve teachers’ retirement options. Both parties hope to find a solution that will ease the district into increased retirement payments, which could result in retirement option increases for both the district and the teachers.

The DTA and the district have a shared list of goals for the evaluation process. The list includes consistency in the process, assistance for tenured teachers and self-evaluation.

Both the DTA and the district want to conform to the contract language to ensure legality and compatibility with newly enacted pension reforms.

The last negotiation issue, paid leaves, is focused on maintaining and increasing the paid leave as well as provisions teachers can receive upon the birth or adoption of a child.

Though the negotiation topics have been decided upon, the district and the DTA have yet to come to a conclusion on the contract terms. Private negotiations between the parties are underway as of publication.

“The relationship between the DTA and the site administrators and the district administrators has never been stronger,” chemistry teacher and DTA President Craig Seran said at the MVLA board meeting on Monday, April 22. “We may have differences, but we have developed a very strong relationship between our parties, which has allowed us to be proactive in things. From our point of view, we’re very happy about the relationship we have.”

Decisions made during the private negotiations will be opened to public comments before the contract is finalized by the district.

“The main goal of any negotiation we have in this district is to arrive at a solution or an agreement that both sides are happy with,” Hope said.

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