PLEASANTON — Following months of contentious contract negotiations, the Association of Pleasanton Teachers (APT) has reached an impasse with the Pleasanton Unified School District (PUSD).
According to a press release issued last week by the APT, 98.6% of the membership who voted authorized a strike, if last-minute efforts to reach an agreement with the PUSD should fail.
“Pleasanton students deserve the best, and we hope that district management recognizes that we provide the high level of education PUSD prides itself on,” said APT President Michelle VerKuilen. “The sacrifices, effort and the above-and-beyond work that we continue to do should not just be met with occasional words of appreciation, but with actions that truly support our students and give us a fair return for the work that we have done and continue to do.”
Among the issues on the table are smaller class sizes and caseloads, along with individualized support for special education students. ATP also claims the district has consistently refused efforts to retain and recruit the best teachers via competitive compensation. According to Salary.com, the average public school teacher salary in Alameda County is $70,948 as of Sept. 27, 2021, with a range that typically falls between $61,942 and $81,910. The PUSD currently pays incoming teachers approximately $64,000 a year, with neighboring Livermore coming in at roughly $51,000. In Dublin, new certificated teachers receive nearly $71,000.
Prior to APT declaring an impasse, PUSD proposed its most recent offer, which includes a two-year compensation package for 2020 through 2022. Patrick Gannon, PUSD coordinator of communications and community engagement, stated that this is equivalent to a 5% increase.
“The 5% we previously stated is for both 2020-21 and 2021-22, and includes both one-time/off-salary schedule raises and ongoing raises, as well as ongoing increases to stipends,” Gannon continued.
But VerKuilen claims those numbers are not accurate.
"(PUSD) is proposing only an off-schedule payment for the 2020-2021 school year and a mere 2.0% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) increase for the 2021-2022 school year, even though the state has increased the district's ongoing funding by over 5% for the 2021-2022 school year alone,” she said.
VerKuilen added that certificated employees pay for their own benefits, an average outlay of $2,000 a month for a family of two or more.
In response, Gannon noted that “the lion’s share of the increase to school district funding is one-time funding tied to COVID-19 relief and to address learning loss.”
Jeff Keller, a former teacher in the PUSD from 2001 to 2005, said that despite what the district claims, leadership is putting themselves ahead of the students. He cited the 3.5% raise to the superintendent and his cabinet prior to settling APT’s contract as an example of the district’s tone deafness.
“I have never seen districts give themselves a raise before settling (a contract),” said Keller. “I’m appalled … effective leaders take care of the people they lead first … to give yourself a raise before giving (teachers) a raise creates a culture of distrust.”
Gannon agreed that executive leadership did receive a 3.5% increase as voted on by a previous school board. Similarly, he added, on July 1, classified and certificated employees received an average 3.5% step-and-column automatic increase as outlined in the existing collective bargaining agreement.
“Additionally,” said Gannon. “The district allocated $1 million to support teacher professional development during the 2021-2022 school year. The district is ready to continue conversations, should APT choose to return to the negotiations table to finalize the collective bargaining agreement.”
The district and APT will reconvene on Oct. 26 at a fact-finding meeting — a process in which both parties present their respective positions on unresolved issues to a panel. The California Public Employment Relations Board members will make up the panel and make recommendations for resolving the conflicts between the two groups.
“APT is hopeful that we can avoid a strike. However, it is going to take PUSD management to willingly partner with us to help make a student-centered agreement happen,” said VerKuilen.
Gannon remains optimistic.
“The district is ready to continue conversations, should APT choose to return to the negotiations table to finalize the collective bargaining agreement,” he said.