Those in the Millbrae Elementary School District hope a 4 percent raise for teachers will be one of the first steps in quelling tensions between district officials and teachers.
The district’s teachers’ union, the Millbrae Education Association, reached a tentative agreement for the 2013-14 school year at the end of last week. Tensions and a request for better treatment of teachers stemmed from the December 2013 resignation of Taylor Middle School Principal Lesley Martin, who some felt was intimidated by the superintendent and school board into leaving. Because of the issues, the executive board of the Millbrae Education Association, as well as the Taylor’s classified and certified employees, voted no confidence in Superintendent Linda Luna.
“The Millbrae Education Association and the Millbrae Elementary School District are pleased to announce that they have reached a tentative agreement on the teachers’ contract providing a 4 percent increase on the salary schedule and 1.5 percent increase to health and welfare benefits,” according to a joint statement from the district and union. “The agreement will be submitted to the unit members for ratification and to the governing board for approval after the County Office of Education reviews the financial impacts of the agreement.”
It was a fair settlement in accordance with what other San Mateo County districts are settling for right now, said math teacher Debra Argenbright, co-president and lead negotiator for the teachers’ Millbrae Education Association.
“They’re still working on developing a climate survey,” she said. “There’s still a lot of issues with the parents and teachers surrounding climate and I’m hoping this is a step forward.”
The school board has taken steps recently to address concerns about board relations with teachers and the public. Through a third-party facilitator, the board is going to administer a districtwide climate survey for teachers, staff and parents to give feedback on working conditions.
The district also redesigned the board website to make information more accessible, board President Denis Fama said in a statement. The board is considering having each trustee adopt a school, assigning one trustee to each campus for more direct communication and support. It is also looking at parent-suggested committee structures to address specific issues on a problem-solving, ad-hoc basis and it is scheduling a board training session with California School Board Association in March that addresses board responsibilities and protocol. Fama plans on providing a board statement on the district website twice a month to give updates on progress and discuss new initiatives.
“I am grateful to be part of our Board of Trustees, even during these difficult times,” Fama wrote. “I am proud to be the president this year and our trustees look forward to working collaboratively towards satisfactory and permanent solutions.”
Fama did note that board meetings had become increasingly agitated and a confrontational environment has developed. Fama wrote that, as board president, he asked the trustees to always maintain a professional demeanor and he asks the same of meeting attendees.
“We must re-establish trust in our relationships, and accept that we are all acting in good faith, even when we disagree,” he wrote.
As for the labor negotiations, Fama was pleased with the settlement.
“I am extremely gratified that our district has reached a tentative agreement with MEA,” he wrote in an email. “I look forward to ratification, and to working together with our teachers in a positive environment.”
The next board meeting is Monday, March 10.
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