Esther Kang

With school year at end, Manhattan Beach school district, teachers union reach tentative bargain agreement

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After months of mounting tension between Manhattan Beach Unified School District administrators and the teachers union, the two parties have finally reached a tentative agreement for the 2013-2014 school year.

The agreement, which includes a five-percent raise for certified teachers retroactive to last July, was the result of a seven-hour negotiation with a mediator May 2 — the ninth session between the two parties since September.

“It always feels good to reach an agreement and know that the two sides came together,” said MBUSD Superintendent Mike Matthews. “It was difficult, but I’m thankful for the efforts of [the union], the negotiation team and the mediator. I think the entire community is relieved to have a settlement.”

Shawn Chen, president of the Manhattan Beach Unified Teachers Association (MBUTA), said the union is satisfied with the terms of the agreement but not “with the process that was required to get a reasonable deal.”

“This should have wrapped up by December,” Chen said. “None of the concessions they were willing to make matched any of the concessions we were willing to make until last Friday.”

MBUTA members will meet Wednesday for a vote. If a majority of its 330 members greenlight the tentative agreement, it will be ratified and come before the Board of Trustees for final approval as early as May 21.

The terms of the agreement are as follows: For the next school year, fourth and fifth grade teachers at all five elementary schools will receive an additional three hours per month of preparation time; hourly rates for extra duty will be increased from $38 to $39, effective upon board approval; and two additional mandatory professional development days (four total) have been added to the next school year calendar, at each teacher’s regular pay rate.

Two new subcommittees, with equal representation from the district and union, will be formed as part of the agreement. The first subcommittee will oversee the two-year pilot teacher evaluation system, which was kicked off this past school year, and make recommendations for improvements for when the system is permanently adopted in the 2015-2016 school year. Another subcommittee will meet monthly beginning October to find more affordable health benefit plans.

Matthews said that finding a cheaper health plan is of mutual interest for the two parties. Currently, teachers pay 20 percent of their health benefit expenses.

Parents and teachers holding signs of protest pack a special board meeting of the Manhattan Beach Unified School District on April 23. Photo by Esther Kang

Parents and teachers holding signs of protest pack a special board meeting of the Manhattan Beach Unified School District on April 23. Photo by Esther Kang

Chen attributed the success of the negotiations to a recent outpour of parental support after Matthews’ acknowledgement last month of a $1 million accounting flub in the district’s general fund, which pays for teacher salaries. The oversight was found in the district’s wireless and iPad-related expenditures, which the teachers union had questioned since the iPad program’s implementation in 2012.

At the April 23 special board meeting, a number of parents spoke out against the administration and urged district leaders to rectify the mistake by meeting the teachers’ demands at the negotiation table.

“Their support was the crucial lever in this drawn-out process,” Chen said.

Last April, the MBUTA filed a complaint against the district with the Public Employment Relations Board for failure to provide documents related to iPad-related expenses, preceding a formal complaint against the district filed by PERB. The case will come before an administrative law judge for a ruling on Thursday, May 15.

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