Supt Letter on Negotiations Feb. 8, 2022

Clarifications: Teacher negotiations

Dear MVWSD community,

It has been a tough two years for all of us. The pandemic has stretched us to our limits of flexibility and empathy for each other. Everywhere we turn we continue to feel the impact of the pandemic, whether it is through the stress of new variants, inflation, caring for friends and family or worrying about job security. Yet, these challenges have strengthened our community and our resolve to do the best we can for our students.

Over the past year, we have been working with our teachers union, the MVEA, to negotiate their contract. The District’s job is to not only recognize our employees' hard work, but also remain fiscally solvent. Unfortunately, after many hours and discussions, MVEA has paused negotiations by calling an impasse.

Here are a few points that I think are important for parents to know:

1. Salary proposals. Our three-year proposal is a 12% increase in salary + a one-time bonus of 3% of their salary, which comes on top of the annual 3% step increase for most teachers. This amount, totalling a 21% increase in three years, is not only the highest in the county, but also places our teachers as either the highest, or some of the highest-paid teachers in our comparative, or neighboring districts. A teacher who started in MVWSD in 2015 when I did would earn $102,262 by their ninth year of service, essentially doubling their salary. This does not include a second consecutive one-time bonus, which for this teacher would amount to more than $2,500.

2. Our reserves are healthy. I take pride that MVWSD has been able to withstand turbulent times. During the pandemic, we did not lay off a single employee. Even with declining enrollment, we refused to send layoff notices. We paid our contractors for their services (mental health and special education). We gave raises to our employees, even when other districts stated that they could not. We used our reserves to purchase equipment and supplies for staff members and students alike. Our reserves are our rainy day funds. Spending those funds down past the Board required minimum would be perilous and unwise.

3. Before and after school meetings. As written in our contract with our teachers union, our teachers are asked to attend only one after school administrative / faculty meeting per week. Also, our contract with teachers requires them to arrive 15 minutes prior to the start of the day, use work-day collaboration time (Thursday early dismissal) to plan with other teachers, and attend meetings for students with special needs, who are at risk for failing, or whose parents requested a conference.

4. Teacher turnover. We have been aggressive about increasing teacher salaries over the years. When I first arrived in 2015, a starting teacher earned $52,207 a year. That same teacher now makes $84,876, which is $20,000 dollars more than they would have prior to past years’ increases. However, teacher turnover is more than just salaries. Over the past years we have seen many young teachers leave the area to find more affordable housing, as well as experienced teachers opting to retire. Construction is underway on two housing projects that will provide 170 new affordable units for MVWSD staff. MVWSD and MVEA both agree that we must do everything that we can do to retain the best and brightest.

5. Class size. Our data shows that our average class sizes are lower than what is contractually agreed upon and is consistent with class size averages across the county. MVEA declined our offer to use a portion of the proposed salary increase for class size reduction. Further class size reduction would require hiring more teachers and cost the District more than $2.3 million annually. Their total request would force MVWSD to make budget cuts that will impact instructional programming.

Our negotiations journey has been chronicled for you in Negotiations News, which you received by email and you can review again in the link for more detail. If the last two years have taught us anything, it is that we will rise to the challenge. We will continue to work together to find a solution.

Ayindé Rudolph, Ed.D.

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