District teachers continue fight for compensation, safety protocols, special education programs at school board meeting


At the Rocklin Unified school board meeting April 18, Rocklin government teacher and RTPA Union President Colleen Crowe speaks to the board with support from other teachers. Photo by McKenna Ellis

Teachers from various Rocklin schools attended the school district meeting April 18 to advocate for various points such as special education and campus safety following more than a year of back-and-forth with Rocklin Unified School District. Since March 2017, Rocklin Teacher’s Professional Association, or RTPA, and Rocklin Unified School District attempted negotiating contracts. Over the past year, RTPA and the district had seven negotiation sessions; once they realized they could not agree on contract terms, the groups declared an impasse Feb. 15. With a state appointed mediator, both parties met an additional three times yet still have not reached any conclusions thus attendance at the school district meeting.

“We are all here to show a unified front against the current opposition we are facing during negotiations. The number one thing is that our district prides themselves on putting students first, but their actions don’t always support that. The teachers are here to show that supporting us, [the teachers, will] translate to supporting students directly. Having better teachers in the classroom and qualified teachers in the classroom and more support for those teachers has a direct impact on what they are able to do with students and for students — whether it’s time, just being available or resources being directly given or used on students,” union site representative, union organizing team member and union bargaining team member Mr. Travis Mougeotte said.

RTPA has increased its communications during the past month, including text alerts for members about the negotiating process, and coordinated bright green shirts to attract attention to their cause. Having a strong presence at the meeting is one tactic for raising awareness and taking a unified approach on behalf of all teachers.

“By wearing these shirts, we want teachers to wear our message and let people know in the district that if you support us, we are supporting the kids. If you want to do what is best for kids, [the teachers] have a pretty good idea of that, and we should probably listen because it’s helping the kids,” Mrs. Kari Ustaszewski said.

One of the contested topics RTPA is asking the district to include in the contract is improved safety procedures on campuses.

“There is currently no language that mentions safety. What we want is more information on safety in classrooms; giving magnets on doors and putting straps on doors — we don’t feel like that is enough. In this age of school shootings, there needs to be something in the contract that protects us as far as do we get yearly training? Is there something in the contract that says the police department will come in and train us? Are we putting any money toward that to protect our school?” Ustaszewski said.

Additionally, teachers are fighting for fair compensation increases.

“Just by looking at statistics, it is easy to see that our school district is behind neighboring school districts to keep up or even try to close the gap there needs to be for compensation. The state gives the school compensation, and we would like to see that passed on to [the teachers] so we don’t have teachers leaving the district,” Ustaszewski said.

Finally, RTPA wants to add training for both special and general education training for teachers to ultimately provide better, safer and more inclusive learning environments for students. Teachers also want caseload caps to limit the number of students on a caseload of a special education teach, speech pathologist or school counselor.

After the April 18 meeting, RTPA and the district representatives are currently in the fact-finding step, in which the teacher union and district office individually prepare their claims and negotiations. Then, the cases will be presented to an unbiased party to review the information and finally give their opinions and findings to a neutral panel of representatives from stage organization to provide a decision.

“That group will collectively decide and ultimately dictate what decisions will be made on behalf of the district or the teachers, and it can go in favor of either or but they use hard facts and evidence to support their decision,” Mougeotte said.

If there is still no forward movement, teachers have other methods of forcing action by the district, including work-to-contract and strikes.

“These are very much real things that could happen this and next school year depending on the timeline of the process and the district’s willingness to work for a settlement. Work-to-contract would mean teachers work only their contract time, which is 30 minutes before the first bell and 30 minutes after. That’s it, nothing more, no sports practices, extracurricular activities, et cetera. Strike is a literal strike; schools shut down because there are no teachers to work. A strike would have a major impact on the community and bring much publicity to the area, both good and bad potentially,” Mougeotte said.

RTPA is now waiting for conclusions from the district.

“At this point, the ball is in the district’s court; they have been less than willing to negotiate and uncompromising for meeting after meeting between negotiation teams. Telling the teachers ‘no’ on complex issues with nothing more than ‘We like things the way they are’ as their reasoning is not doing what’s best for students and is not #rusdproud like they blast all over social media,” Mougeotte said.

The update from the meeting can be found here.