Teachers, district reach tentative agreement on class sizes and calendar

Teachers, district reach tentative agreement on class sizes and calendar

Michele Ellson

Alameda school district officials and the union representing the district’s teachers have reached a tentative accord on class sizes and on a calendar for the 2012-2013 school year, Superintendent Kirsten Vital announced Tuesday night, potentially heading off a threatened strike over class sizes. The deal heads to teachers for a vote Wednesday and on Thursday, students’ final day of school this year.

Vital said the union had agreed to accept a proposed calendar that its leadership had previously accepted in principle, which is posted at the district’s website. Under the tentative calendar, school would begin on August 27.

District officials and Alameda Education Association leadership had been engaged in a fact-finding process intended to fuel further negotiations on class sizes; a report from the fact-finding hearing held in late May has been issued and will be released publicly on Monday. Union leadership has said they could strike over class sizes if the school board opts to permanently impose larger class sizes in some grades. District officials had declared an impasse in negotiations in November.

Neither Vital nor Alameda Education Association President Gray Harris offered additional details on the tentative deal, though Harris said that it is separate from negotiations over a new, three-year contract. The union had previously reached a tentative contract accord with the district, though teachers voted that agreement down.

Class sizes in kindergarten through third grades and ninth grade were raised temporarily in 2009, but the agreement teachers signed allowing the larger class sizes is due to expire at the end of June.

District officials have sought to keep classes at or near current maximums – 25 students per teacher, up from 20, in K-3 and 35 students per teacher, up from 20, in grade 9 – saying they fear the state will stop funding its class size reduction program and that they won’t have the money to maintain it.

Union leaders have argued that the district have ample reserves to pay for smaller class sizes, though Harris told parents at a community meeting that the union had conceded the class size issue. The tentative agreement rejected by teachers would have allowed the district to keep K-3 class sizes at 25 students per teacher and to raise them to 30 students per teacher under a severe fiscal emergency, while high school classes would have maxed out at 34 students per teacher.

The new accord was reached one hour before the start of the public session of Tuesday’s school board meeting, where board members approved new contracts and tentative calendars for the district’s non-teaching employees. Non-teaching employees received 1.5 percent raises and one-time, 1 percent bonuses. The new contracts also contain “no strike” provisions forbidding non-teaching employees from engaging in sympathy and other strikes.

The board had been slated to consider a calendar for the first three months of the coming school year, though they held off in anticipation of teachers’ vote on the tentative agreement.

District officials have for months been pressing the union to sign off on a calendar for the coming school year. Union leaders had sought a broader agreement on teaching hours before assenting to a new calendar.

Relations between district leaders and teachers disintegrated over the course of the school year as district leaders released negotiation updates and bargaining proposals that union officials believed should have been kept confidential and teachers protested what they felt was a lack of progress and respect from the district in front of schools and at school board meetings. But all of that ceased after parents pleaded with both sides to take their fight back behind closed doors.

In other action, the board:

  • Agreed to allow district staff to negotiate a lease for a new district office in Marina Village, on a 3-2 vote. Tentative terms outlined in a letter of intent to negotiate a lease call for rent of up to $552,000 a year for six years on the 26,720-square-foot property at 2060 Challenger Drive with an option to purchase the building. Chief Business Officer said a lease, which could commence in October, could come back to the board for approval in July.

    Board President Margie Sherratt said that while she supported staff’s assertion that the district office needs to move out of Alameda High School for safety reasons, she thought district leaders should consider leasing a smaller, less costly space and setting up some district operations in existing facilities. But Trustee Mike McMahon supported the move, calling it “an unexpected expense that we have to deal with because of health and safety issues.”

  • Okayed changes to the district’s high school graduation requirements that will apply to incoming high school freshmen, on a 4-1 vote. The changes will require students to complete two years’ worth of lab sciences to graduate along with one course in the visual and performing arts and one in a world language, and will also require the district’s high schools to counsel students on University at California and California State University course requirements for admission.
  • Comments

    Submitted by Mike McMahon on Wed, Jun 13, 2012

    The calendar is on the AUSD website under the Parent tab: http://www.alameda.k12.ca.us/images/stories/pdfs/AUSD_Calendar_2012-13-K...

    Submitted by Michele Ellson on Wed, Jun 13, 2012

    Thanks Mike!

    Submitted by Bob on Wed, Jun 13, 2012

    The Board of Education has voted to spend $6,487 per employee annually for rental office space (85 person staff). Both the building size (26,720sf) and lease rate ($20.66/sf) exceed figures presented last week in the 6/4/12 BOE materials. The proposal to move the entire administration to one business park location does not utilize any existing District facilities. Staff claims to have evaluated all District school sites, but none available?

    Submitted by Anne DeBardeleben on Wed, Jun 13, 2012

    Hi Bob,

    The BOE voted on a letter of intent to lease/purchase a property for the district office. This allows the staff to go out and begin developing/negotiating on properties. Any agreement would need to come back to the board for ratification. The original property they were looking at is no longer available and the 26k sq ft is the next best available. There were two additional departments identified who could utilize the space - one was receiving I can't remember the other - if they enter into an agreement on a larger space.

    I don't believe staff ever stated there isn't any space in the district, however, there is not enough to house all the employees and the related storage/technology etc. One comment member McMahon had, which is something I agree with, is the inefficiencies created by dispersing district employees through out the island. Though businesses may have many offices scattered throughout the world, corporate office are typically under one roof/campus. I'm not in any way trying to elude the inefficiencies would bear the same cost as the building, but with an already strapped work force it will be problematic.

    About the only thing positive to be found in this whole situation is it may be the best time to purchase real estate due to the level of prices and interest rates. If purchased, the district will be able to rent or sell the building in the future and recoup, if not profit, on the building. Had this happened five years ago, it would have been far more expensive.

    I also think evaluating this on a per employee basis is not a valid analysis. This type of an analysis is only valuable when you compare all facility costs to total employees or student population.

    Submitted by barbara kahn on Wed, Jun 13, 2012

    City Hall operates out of more than one facility. The superintendents office and student services are in portions of the building that have been retrofitted . Thus the portion of the administration that deals with the public need not be moved at all. In this day of immediate wireless communication (we can chat with people in far away placers from our own computers) being in the same building is not essential.

    Is this step one in a grand plan to tear down AHS and replace both high schools with one larger high school? Mr. Shemwell said that the district offices would never return to AHS once they leave. What happens to all that space?

    As far as the wisdom of buying now in the expectation that in the future the new building could be sold, perhaps at a profit--check this out with people who bought houses with the expectation that they would increase in value and are now under water. Not exactly a conservative or prudent way to commit our tax dollars.

    Submitted by Donna Eyestone on Thu, Jun 14, 2012

    During Prop 39 negotiations last year for Nea school facilities, somehow it was decided that Nea Community Learning Center could be "split up" into two campus locations because of limited facilities. I'm not clear on why the district office can not be "split up" without suffering harm? I don't claim to have all the details - but I'm someone who teaches online very effectively to students all over the world, and would be happy to share some insights on how technology can be used to create connections and help people work together MORE effectively than being in the same physical space -- for significantly less money. And if we invested as a district in some of this technology, we'd also be improving technology resources for our students - who could then connect better between all our school campuses and the greater community - and the world.

    Submitted by Bob on Thu, Jun 14, 2012

    Thanks Anne,
    Yes, a lease agreement to commit District resources would need a ratification vote by Trustees.
    A letter of intent to begin negotiations with Marina Village leasing agents should be based upon District criteria, such as staffing levels and functions – not the real estate market. Staff appears to be ahead of themselves on this. I’m trying to verify District space requirements, which appears to change week by week.
    On 6/4/12 staff presented “District Office Needs” as 22,000sf for 85 employees. However, staff failed to include a Marina Village lease agreement for 26,720sf at 2060 Challenger dated 6/1/12. (See 6/12/12 BOE package, page 411 of 494) If two additional departments are to be included, please direct staff to quantify this for me. This is facility space planning work.
    I assume shipping/receiving would require a warehouse space and truck docks, which differs from administrative offices. I don’t see how a discussion of efficiencies is relevant to the need for these two different functions to share the same building. If Student Services (1200 sf) and Maintenance of Facilities (1200 sf) are included in the Marina Village leased facility, please advise.
    All I have to go by is staff materials in public postings. I’m having trouble justifying a $4.8m building purchase by 12/31/12, per expired 6/1/12 lease agreement. The outcome of this discussion appears to be predetermined by staff.
    A performance goal $10k bonus to the Superintendent, per contract, is noted (page 425).

    Submitted by Anne DeBardeleben on Fri, Jun 15, 2012

    Hi Bob,

    Based on the information I’ve seen, I believe the best solution is to move the entire district to one location.

    The old Island High location won’t work for many reasons and will serve the district better if sold off resulting in funds for facility needs.

    There is not enough available space throughout the district to house the employees, records and technical equipment utilized by district offices. Additional space would need to be leased for this to work. In addition, classroom needs vary year to year based on enrollment changes resulting in reassessment and moves annually.

    Even with the technological capabilities now available, from my experience day to day business is most efficient when centralized in one location.

    The solution needs to be sustainable for at least 5 years while the facility needs at school sites are sorted out. A lease to purchase means this issue is resolved until a master facilities plan is developed, agreed upon funded and completed. There is no telling how long that process will take.

    If purchased, the district has an asset purchased at a time when prices are low and can be sold or leased in the future to recoup costs. This is far better than spending money on leases that will never be regained.

    As outlined in the presentation made on June 4th, 12 properties were visited and narrowed down to 4, 2060 Challenger was amongst them. The 22k property was highlighted as it was the best space available at the time. The property was leased by another organization, leaving the 26k as the next best solution. Further delays will mean lesser choices.

    As there is a deadline for moving employees and office space is a limited commodity, the district looses the luxury of waiting for the perfect location. Staff has been working on this for almost 6 months now and brought forward what they determined was the best solution. Once the solution is reached, they are left with what is available on the market.

    The reality is everything noted above is my opinion. Some will agree, some won’t and others won’t care one way or another. For me, I’m pleased to see staff present a viable, cost effective, long-term solution rather than another quick fix which kicks the problem down the road again for what is just a lousy situation.

    With regards to staff, it is there responsibility to do all the leg work, research analysis and present what they determine is the best solution. This may seem as if it’s predetermined, but it’s the board that makes the final decision. Speaking of which, you should reach out to one of the board members or make a public records request for the space requirements, I don’t direct staff, but they’d probably have a good laugh if I tried!

    Submitted by Bob on Mon, Jun 18, 2012

    Hi Anne,

    Perhaps in the future we can look back on this time with hindsight and have a chuckle. Unfortunately, we have a problem that has been ignored for 40 years and will cost millions - whatever the solution. Staff work to date has not produced a sequential process that is easy to follow and rally behind.

    I do not endorse placing employees in harmful situations, or risking injury. I understand the need for seismic safety, especially in California.

    A number of key administrative decisions rely on engineering information not yet available from consultants. I assume this work would include concrete shear walls and/or braced frames, per letter from ZFA Structural Engineers. LPA has not issued structural engineering drawing, specifications, or cost estimate for seismic work. A rough $50m project budget cannot be verified at this time.

    Why walk away and abandon this example of Classical Revival architecture listed in the National Register of Historical Places? Others have figured out historic preservation: Berkeley HS, Oakland Tech HS, and Fremont HS. The current remodel of Highland Hospital includes examples of adaptive reuse. The Historic Alameda Theater is a good case study. The downtown core of Alameda has four listed sites, yet only City Hall and Alameda Theater have been restored. The Veterans Memorial is to be abandoned, per Parks Master Plan. The AHS Science Wing/Adult School exterior windows were rehabilitated, yet the building remains vacant. Alameda’s minimal efforts appear disjointed and unfocused.

    The $4.8m purchase of an office building in Marina Village should be compared to the complete retrofit of the historic high school, similar to City Hall a few years ago. Last spring during the Measure A campaign the District was not in the real estate market. What events have caused this sudden shift in priorities, other than declines in prices?

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