Teacher contract talks in the Compton Unified School District (CUSD) have been making people sick.
In response to the string of citywide “sickouts,” which are alleged to be planned job actions on the part of a teachers' union to grab attention, CUSD and the Compton Education Association (CEA) called an all-staff meeting at district headquarters Monday afternoon to settle the dispute.
“The objective is really to get a clear understanding of what are the issues and what are the concerns and how can we bring forth some immediate resolution today,” said Micah Ali, Compton’s district board president, on Monday.
The meeting is for all staff members in CUSD to voice their concerns and to put a “why” behind the recent sickouts. The biggest thing people are concerned about is the issue of pay, Ali said.
Teachers were in large part present and accounted for Monday morning at Compton public schools. Nothing resembling a sickout occurred.
As far as contracts are concerned, the current negotiations involve the 2013-14 school year. That means these are not “forward-looking” talks, and the union and district will be back at the table in a few months to discuss 2014-15.
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Despite differences, the district and union are working together to solve the contract enigma “as soon as possible” and to put an end to future sickouts, according to a joint letter penned by CUSD Superintendent Darin Brawley and CEA President Patrick Sullivan and released March 20.
The sickouts have concerned parents and school board members, as they have begun happening during the run-up to this week’s standardized tests.
Many have called the sickouts distractions that not only leave certain classrooms without teachers, but also shift students’ focus from learning to activism.
During the sickouts at Dominguez Hills and McNair, substitute teachers had to cover for the more than 70 absent teachers.
Students and parents have said they want their teachers to do their jobs, and principals are on edge over fears their schools could be next on a long list of impending sickouts.
“Although some may view their actions as an act of solidarity, both the District and the Association are meeting to resolve the issues,” the letter said. “We encourage all certified employees to read (Certificated Collective Bargaining Agreement, Article 25 – Concerted Activities) carefully to understand the possible ramifications of (sickouts).”
Sullivan has said the sickouts were not planned by the union. If it turns out they were, though, the job action would be in violation of the district’s and the union’s bargaining agreement.
Teachers, district officials and members of the school boards have all said they hope the air will be cleared this week.
“I’ve heard that we’ve been offered 1 percent, I’ve heard that we’ve been offered 5 percent,” said Angela Prince-Taylor, a Compton schoolteacher, with regard to contract talks and budgets. “I’d like to hear what we’re actually being offered and what’s really available.”
Looking ahead, there will be four more negotiation talks between April 7 and April 14, as well as a board meeting Tuesday.