Friday, December 20, 2013

Session #12, December 18th, 2013

We met for the twelfth contract bargaining session on Wednesday evening. We began with a discussion clarifying a district proposal to give elementary teachers in dyads and triads a stipend of $200 in acknowledgment of the extra communication time their larger student load generates. The district clarified that this stipend would be consistent for all teachers part of dyads and triads and that the work it recognizes would not be limited to communication, but could include any professional responsibility.

We then asked why the district was not agreeing to our proposal to add additional teacher-directed communication time for elementary teachers like they propose for secondary teachers. Associate Superintendent Mary Wolverton responded that she calculates that elementary teachers already have a number of hours that are not scheduled during our current conference structure that could be used for other forms of communication.  We are checking her math, but at first glance it does not seem that her assessment of extra time is what our teachers are experiencing.

The district next responded to our proposal to add grandchildren to the list of family members for whose care we can use leaves. They agreed they could extend funeral and bereavement leave to grandchildren but did not agree to other areas like using sick leave to care for an ill grandchild.  They also said they are still considering the issue we brought up regarding the inequity of having parental leave only available to fathers.

The last item was the district response to our request for an economic proposal that does not change our health insurance benefits from what we have now.  The district team spent their time asserting that there is no real difference between the Choice Select plan and the Elect/Essential plan. Because they believe that, they don't see why we would be concerned with freezing the district contribution at current levels as it would cover the full cost of the Essential plan for years to come even if premiums rise. We countered that there is a significant difference between the plans and that the ability to go directly to a specialist, without gatekeeping referrals and losing time (including time out of the classroom) and money in extra appointments and copays, is valuable to our members. We also emphasized that changing from a percentage of coverage to a flat dollar amount is a huge shift as it creates uncertainty in what a teacher will pay in the second year of any contract and would lead to significant erosion in the district's contribution over time.

The district concluded by telling us they have no further authority to increase the value of their offer and are not proposing any changes to their last proposal. They suggested that their authority from the school board is up to 2.5 percent increases each year based on their cast-forward style of accounting, which significantly inflates the actual cost of our package (for instance, steps and lanes only, no increase on the salary schedule, is an over 2 percent increase by their calculations).

The AHEM team took about 20 minutes to caucus and came back stating that we were disappointed in the offer and that we would look it over and respond at a later date.