Frustrated teachers, staff and parents overfilled the board room at Monday night’s Los Altos School District Trustee's meeting, with some lingering out the doorways just to hear comments about ongoing union negotiations.
While district and union officials cannot comment about the negotiations, at least one parent leader expressed consternation with a reported offer from the teacher and classified employees unions for $500,000 in concessions.
“Parents are already picking up a huge check, and the community just barely agreed to tax itself to the tune of an additional tax of $2.3 million,” said Joe Seither, new co-president of the Los Altos Education Foundation (LAEF). “And then staff says all we can do is give you a half-million dollars. That’s the source of the frustration of the parents.”
Board of Trustees President Bill Cooper said employees have a three-year contract that expires next school year but that it had been re-opened for discussion for "one specific topic." He said he has hope any gap in offers can be resolved this week.
“I’m optimistic that we can come to a resolution by the end of the school year, which is, in fact, Friday,” Cooper said. The board scheduled another closed session on Thursday at 6 p.m.; if a final agreement is made, the board could move to open session to announce any decisions.
While teachers told the board they feel they have given up enough already, the district faces a growing budget deficit. For the upcoming 2011-12 school year, the projected deficit is $1.3 million, but a higher deficit is expected in upcoming years, according to Randall Kenyon, assistant superintendent of business services.
During the packed meeting, parents who ran the Measure E parcel tax campaign, and others in both the PTA and LAEF, encouraged what Seither called a “three-prong solution” to solving the budget problems.
The prongs consist of parents, community and staff, he said. The parents aspect is mainly made up of the PTAs and LAEF, which Seither said contributes in “excess of $4 million” each year.
Seither added that the more the unions give up in concessions to “balance” the three prongs, the more motivated parents will be to donate.
“At this point, parents are feeling taken for granted,” Seither said.
Teachers, on the other hand, said they feel as though they have conceded a lot already during the negotiation process. Cooper said he could not disclose the exact number on the table.
“We have offered much during the negotiating process, and the process is often uncomfortable,” said Laurel McNeil, a sixth-grade teacher at Oak School. “What we as teachers and support staff do every day make every single other profession possible.”
The common ground is that everyone involved is dedicated to the district, Cooper said. He added that he has “faith” that each party can agree that it’s in the best interest of all involved to come to a resolution soon.