Before school Oct. 24, union members picket before contract hours to gain attention for their organization. Photo by Sienna Eagle

RTPA/RUSD ONGOING COVERAGE: Possibility of strike reappears as RTPA votes in closed meeting

October 25, 2018

A sea of green shirts and emotions filled the district office Oct. 17 as teachers from all over Rocklin Unified expressed their opinions and desires to further their agenda regarding contract negotiations for the current school year.

As of the end of September, RTPA and RUSD have settled contract negotiations for the 2017-18 school year. Despite this, negotiations for the current school year are still underway and RTPA has asked the state Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) to formally declare impasse, which means a state-appointed mediator will now come in to help RTPA and the District try to work through the remainder of negotiations.

After the meeting with the district Wednesday, however, the union held a closed meeting in the library Oct. 24 to hold a Strike Authorization Vote – meaning every single teacher in RTPA gets to vote yes or no on whether they approve of a strike. Although they voted, it will not happen now. If the results show a majority approval of one, it means if necessary, the union will be ready to strike. The second reason was to hold a Vote of No Confidence.

Overall, the head of the negotiation team, Mr. Travis Mougeotte, expressed how beneficial the meeting was for the union.

“The meeting was a very important opportunity for RTPA to educate and bring up to speed our teachers across the district in what’s been happening with the recent negotiation progress, as well as for us to gather some information and support from our members, to get an accurate gauge of the support and readiness of our teachers district-wide behind the issues, such as Special Education Contract language, wages and benefits, duration of the contract terms, hours of employment, and leaves. We are still negotiating for the 2018-19 School year.  We also hope to have members leave the meeting with an understanding of what and why we are at impasse, as well as the importance of supporting the three candidates RTPA is endorsing for the upcoming school board election: Tami Siegal, Dereck Counter and Susan Halldin,” Mougeotte said.

As for the results of the vote, Mougeotte feels confident that it will be successful.

I am hopeful the results of all this will be a fair and sustainable contract that gives value to the needs of our teachers and students.  I am also hopeful the efforts of our teachers and community will be the culture change we need for the relationship between RUSD and RTPA. I also believe that the teachers and community will support the recommendations of RTPA to elect new board members that are willing to listen to teachers and show the students and teachers of our district need and deserve,” Mougeotte said.

Although the RTPA has repeatedly expressed their opinion regarding the matter of mediation, the President of the RUSD board, Todd Lowell, and the Superintendent, Roger Stock, sent out an email Wednesday night reflecting upon the district’s views.

We remain committed to working in good faith with RTPA to reach an agreement expeditiously.  We seek an agreement that respects and values our teachers, provides fair and competitive compensation, continues high quality programs for our students, and maintains the District’s long-term fiscal integrity. We are grateful for our community’s support of its children and their schools. Our families’ and citizens’ participation in our education system is foundational to the success of our District. RUSD is a terrific school district with high-achieving students and quality teachers and support staff. Our goal continues to be collaboration and communication. You have our commitment that the District’s Board of Trustees and administration will continue to focus our energies on the best interests of our students and the employees who serve them,” Lowell said in the email.

Because the District Superintendent and School Board will be working so closely together, the upcoming election for those spots are important to teachers, which is part of the reason for the No Confidence Vote on Wednesday.

“The vote of no confidence is essentially a petition being signed by RTPA membership to show their unity in the decision to ask our school board to remove Superintendent Stock from his position.  In the time he has been at RUSD, the teachers, students and all other stakeholders have been treated with disrespect and have become the second priority at best. RTPA feels the staff and students of the district deserve better and this petition explains where we feel our leader had fallen short. So, through this vote, we hope our new school board (after the election) will use this information and enact their right to remove and replace our superintendent,” Mougeotte said.

Although both sides have expressed their hope to reach an agreement, the idea of a district-wide strike continues to be a possibility, and in the case of a strike, students feel that it will harm not only their teachers but themselves as well.

“Personally, I would feel a little betrayed, and almost neglected, because this is my senior year, and cheer is really important to me. I definitely support the teachers, but a strike would make it so that I can’t do what makes me happy because I would no longer have a coach,” Lyn Lyn Joaquin said.

On the other hand, teachers will also be disappointed if it comes to the point of having to strike.“If the bargaining process gets to a point where teachers feel a strike is necessary, I will be incredibly disappointed that the district was unwilling to reach a fair settlement; at the same time, I would proudly stand on the picket line with my fellow teachers, as I believe the contract language, as well as the wages and benefits increases will result in a better learning environment for all students, teachers, and community members,” Mrs. Emily Thomas said.

Although students and teachers are both affected by the results of coming decisions from the two parties, Mougeotte wanted to emphasize the importance of the community in the matter.

We want parents and local community members to know how thankful we are for their support in all this.  We also want them to know that their support has made a difference and is a major reason why we have had the success we have this year. That said, we still need our parents and community to continue to show their support as we move through mediation and the upcoming elections,” Mougeotte said.

Picketing by RTPA members continues every Wednesday morning until 7:15 a.m., as well as phone banking and canvassing throughout the neighborhood.

There will be another meeting today for teachers to vote if they missed yesterday’s meeting. On Friday, there will be another negotiation session taking place at the district office.

Whitney High Student Media will continue to provide updates as negotiations continue.

 

by SIENNA EAGLE

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