Discrepancy and disrespect at the negotiating table
On Sept. 22, the district and TTEA agreed to meet to discuss the current budget status. TTEA, however, was not given the requested information because the district had filed extensions with the state, then apparently chose not to disclose county property tax projections received prior to the meeting. On Sept. 21, a new proposal was shared with the principals in the district at an administration meeting. The principals make up a separate bargaining group called TTMA, Tahoe Truckee Management Association. The proposal was also shared with school site employees before the TTEA negotiating team even met at the table. The TTEA team was clearly told that the only way to receive 7.5 percent was to take the three pages of extra language and contingencies. TTEA did not know the information was released until negotiators returned to their school sites Friday afternoon. This break in confidentially cost the district and school board the trust and respect of the employees. The new proposal sent a resounding message to all the employees. In direct contradiction to community priorities, the administration and school board believed we did not deserve an increase in our pay and that we have not worked hard enough.
The meeting on Oct. 4 with the state mediator did not progress any better. TTEA tried to discuss the new language, compensation amounts, etc. … anything to get some clarity as to why things had changed so drastically from the spring. Tax projections were still not disclosed to TTEA, and both sides left the table midday with frustration and bitterness.
Addressing the board on Nov. 1 at Kings Beach Elementary, I asked for both groups to come back to the table. I felt this could be resolved if both parties made an earnest effort to come to agreement on the previously discussed language from the spring sessions and settle the compensation component.
At the board meeting on Nov. 15, the school board wrote a letter to the public and it became apparent to me that not all the information of what was happening with negotiations was being shared with the board members. Needless to say, this was disturbing to watch. I have stepped away from the negotiating table in order to preserve my own sanity at this time. Another teacher has replaced me and I am no longer on the executive board of TTEA. The superintendent then presented a list of budget requests that focused on administrative improvements, an item not even considered a priority by our community or the board in past forums and board sessions.
At the end of November, TTEA had still not received any tax projections for the upcoming year. The head negotiator, Scott Beaudry, wanted to cancel the Dec. 4 meeting due to a lack of information. He finally received the tax projections on Nov. 29, and discovered that the district had again underestimated funding by $1,635,00, and reported a projected property tax base increase of $3,386,484 million for this upcoming year. Our working budget for 06-07 will be more than $42 million. Our community needs to be involved.
As of Dec. 4, our last negotiation session, no settlement has been reached and the board is not open to new ideas from TTEA.
The entire lack of respect, integrity, and invested interest in our community has me saddened to the core. Why does our school board put goals in writing if they are not to be honored? Does our current administration make a bigger impact on our children than the teachers?
The administration and school board have lost sight of employee’s needs, and it is imperative for our children that we start moving forward together. The employees of TTUSD have watched too many of our fellow workers leave for better situations at the other public agencies in our area. The message the teachers have demonstrated through these years is that we will serve our community and teach our kids because they are “our” kids. We would hope the new school board recognizes our invested interest and has the desire to do what is right for the employees.
Erika L. Murphy is a former negotiator for the Tahoe Truckee Education Association, a parent, a teacher and previous president of TTEA.
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