I am Gina Graziano, your Forestville Elementary music teacher and president of The Forestville Teacher's Association and here is our monthly staff report.
Right now I can't stop smiling because I just came from Sebastapol, where, today, teachers, para-educators, and families from all the west county schools came together to protest the scandalously low pay that teacher's receive here in this beautiful, but expensive, Sonoma County. It was fantastic! I mean, it was so inspiring to learn that we are not alone. To quote my favorite play, "this is not a moment, it's the movement"!
As union president, I have endeavored to bring you good news in my monthly reports. Some examples would be: your financials show robust reserves, or the new governor's budget includes billions in pension relief for districts and more funding for public schools. This is all good news.
However, my report today is that FTA is officially at an impasse with the district. And WHY...?
Because your teachers had the audacity to ask for average. Yes, "average". and that's only the state average. We all know that West County has an above average cost of living, yet Forestville teachers struggle to make ends meet at a wage 33% below the state average.
All your teachers did was ask to move the needle toward "average," what did we a get in return?
A smackdown; a puny, petty, and punitive offer of zero percent. Zero percent. Zero percent for the folks who care for the children of Forestville.
So, if this district is so poor it cannot provide educators a living wage, FTA hopes that in the discussions tonight on the Jr High the board considers the possibility of a combo superintendent/principal as Forestville has had in the past, even when the entire student body k-8 was much, much larger than the projected 340-350 students. If we are indeed so poor that option should be looked at. If there is creative thinking and we work together I still believe we have the resources to do the right thing.
But that is a big "IF"... because there are disturbing trends afoot. In addition to this disrespectful, 0%, regressive bargaining there are board members, not staff members, but board members who were elected to represent the whole of this community who, at worst, seem to be spreading "alternative facts", or, at best, seem to have a limited understanding of what's what.
A quick example. It has been said that all teachers get raises every year because there is a step and column schedule. Well, I will use myself as an example. I have over 80 units. I am as far over the column as one can be and yet on the steps I will not receive a raise for three years. Then, after three years my yearly salary goes up by 1500 dollars and stalls out for another three years. And so on. So anyone who contends that we get a raise every year is ....wrong.
So that's all the myth-busting I will indulge in for tonight.
To wrap it up. This district has reserves. You can argue all day about the size and location of those reserves but the fact remains that this board, instead of spending today's tax dollars on today's children, has spent it on more and more administration costs and on lawyers to fight the unions. It spends its energy on how to keep teachers wages down or how to disenfranchise any board members who may be perceived as pro-teacher. Seemingly a school board that would rather do anything but respect teachers and para-educators with a living wage and fair health care.
Again, all we ask for is to be average. Make no mistake that this 0% was meant to be, and is felt as, a slap in the face to all Forestville educators. We become a microcosm of the of the rancor, corporate attitudes, and wage disparity that is tearing this country apart But let me be clear: on this ZERO PERCENT issue this school board is…
On the wrong side of history.
On the wrong side of the numbers.
On the wrong side of morality.
And on the wrong side of the voters of this community.
Check your numbers, there was no voter mandate for this kind of vindictive "Zero Percent" shenanigans! This community supports its teachers.
We all have a date for Valentine's day. See you next week when we "Say No to Zero!'
Forestville School Board Meeting
February 14 - 6p, in the Auditorium
Forestville ElementarySchool, 6321 CA-116, Forestville
Forestville Union School District's 2019 Negotiations Update
Please follow these links for updated information about Forestville School’s 2019 Negotiations.
The District and the Forestville Teachers Association (“FTA”) met today for a 5th day of 2018-19 contract negotiations. The parties began negotiating for 2018-19 in April 2018.
The parties continued to have disagreement on several language issues, including the Complaint Procedure (Article 17), Retirement Benefits (Article 24), and Early Retirement (Article 25). The parties had previously entered into a one-year Memorandum of Understanding with regard to early release Thursdays, which expires at the end of the 2018-19 school year.
The parties continue to be far apart on compensation. At the negotiations meeting on December 17, 2018, FTA proposed a 33% salary increase, or the equivalent of approximately $410,000 for a one-year deal. Based on the District’s finances, including the costs associated with the Middle School returning to the District in 2019-20 school year, the District offered a 0% salary increase over the already built in salary increase of step and column.
The District is a Basic Aid district, meaning that it does not benefit from the Local Control Funding Formula (“LCFF”) or the Cost of Living Adjustment (“COLA”). Instead, its revenues are based almost exclusively on property tax revenues, which are budgeted to increase approximately 2.0% per year.
Due to the rapid increase in pension costs for the District – for teachers alone, rates have increased from 8.25% in 2013-2014 to 16.28% in 2018-19, and are projected to rise through 2020-21 – as well as funding teachers’ step and column increases every year, the property tax revenues year-to-year are almost entirely spent before accounting for salary increases for any other District staff. The result is that soon the district will be spending more than they receive and will have to use the Unrestricted Fund Balance – instead of revenue – to fund its ongoing obligations.
FTA’s salary proposal would result in the District deficit spending and possible insolvency (bankruptcy) in less than 5 years.
The District is required by law to keep a reserve for economic uncertainty of 5% of the budget. However, small districts (like Forestville) are advised by the non-partisan organization School Services of California to maintain a reserve of 15-20% in order to keep the doors open, lights on, and staff paid during times of fiscal crisis. The District’s current reserve level is approximately 15%, the minimum amount recommended by School Services for a district the size of Forestville. Even at 15%, the reserves only cover 2-3 months of District expenditures.
FTA’s salary proposal would result in total exhaustion of the District’s fund balance in 4-5 years.
Because the parties remain far apart on compensation and language issues, they have mutually declared impasse and will bring in a third-party mediator from the State for assistance in reaching an agreement.
PHOTOS by Aleta Parseghian