November 17 – The School Board voted Thursday
night to delay ratifying a new contract for teachers until January,
giving district officials time to craft a plan to pay for the
5 percent pay hike.
The delay would buy time to gather input from the community on
the cuts and cost savings needed to pay for the pay raise, which
would all but deplete the district’s nearly $7.3 million
in reserves over the next three years.
All but one board member – teacher Shane McCloud –
expressed confidence the money will be found, and teachers union
president Harry Keiley said he expected teachers would not object
to giving the board more time to ratify the contract, which goes
into effect retroactively as of July 1.
“I believe the agreement is the best for all our students,”
said School Board member Julia Brownley, who will leave the board
next month to fill the State Assembly seat she won November 7.
“I do believe at the end of the day we can come forward
in a win-win situation.”
“I stand by the 5 percent,” said Board President
Emily Bloomfield. “I think we will get people to a very
high level of comfort… without a lot of pain and sacrifice.”
“The most effective use of our resources is in the classroom,”
said Board member Oscar de la Torre, who along with Bloomfield
was reelected last week. “In the end, we’re going
to come to the conclusion that this is the best decision we can
make for our students.”
But McCloud, who failed in his bid for a second term, was far
less confident about the district’s ability to pay for the
raise and warned that it could “erode public credibility.”
“I’m very concerned about this commitment, that we
won’t be able to afford it after the second year unless
we make drastic changes to the budget,” said McCloud, who
has been a teacher for ten years.
Those changes could include scrapping plans for reducing class
sizes in “struggling schools,” such as Samoh and John
Adams Middle School, where a third of all the classes have more
than 32 students.
“I know the board wants to reduce class size,” McCloud
said. “We won’t be able to count on that with this
McCloud also warned that politics has played, and will continue
to play a role in the relations between the board and the Santa
Monica Malibu Teachers Association.
He noted that the union did not throw its weight behind Prop
BB -- the successful $268 million bond to renovate and repair
the district’s aging schools -- until the tentative agreement
was reached three weeks before the November 7 election.
And he warned that board members would be seeking the union’s
endorsement in the 2008 race for three open seats shortly after
the two-year contract expires.
“It’s difficult to ask for your endorsement when
we’re voting on a contract,” he said.
McCloud, who sat at the center of the dais for his final meeting,
had some parting words.
“I’m sorry I’m going out in a negative way,”
he said. “I did not go public with these issues during the
election. I did not want to jeopardize the passage of the bond.”
Bloomfield quickly countered, saying that the teachers had “come
forward and (done) the right thing without a pay increase,”
and that over the years, teachers’ salaries had increased
an average of only 2.6 percent annually.
“I really commend our teachers for doing a lot with nothing,”
she said. “I’m sorry if I sounded offended, but I
Thursday’s discussion came two days after the Finance Oversight
Committee expressed strong reservations that district officials
had hammered out a tentative agreement without a plan to pay for
the increase. (see story)
By delaying a vote to ratify the agreement -- which was certified
by Superintendent Dianne Talarico, but not by the district’s
Chief Business Official Winston Braham – the board will
submit a funding plan to the County Office of Education that does
not include the salary increases.
After gathering input at a public workshop next month, the district
will submit a “recovery plan” outlining how the salary
raise would be paid for.
The plan could include everything from cutting back on the purchase
of books and supplies and changing the teachers’ health care
plans to revamping bus routes and freezing all hiring, according
to a “treatment” offered by Braham.