Teachers union agrees to reallocate bonus to schools | News | Palo Alto Online |


Teachers union agrees to reallocate bonus to schools

District, union renegotiate bonus after contractual error

The Palo Alto Unified School District and its teachers union have tentatively agreed that if the union foregoes a 2 percent one-time bonus this year, the funds -- about $2.2 million -- will be used for schools' per-student funding.

On Tuesday night, school board members discussed a proposed memorandum of understanding with the Palo Alto Educators Association (PAEA) and appeared likely to approve it at the board's next regular meeting. The memorandum states that if the union foregoes the bonus, the board will put the dollars toward increasing the per-student allocation from $85 to $115 for the next six years, starting with the next school year.

The board had decreased schools' per-student funding from $105 to $85 during budget cuts last year.

The cost over six years will be $2.25 million, or $375,000 per year, according to Anne Brown, the district's interim human resources director. Principals can use the funds at their discretion for a wide range of purposes, from paying for reading specialists to purchasing books for classrooms.

A majority of the teachers union ratified the agreement this past week, PAEA President Teri Baldwin told the Weekly. She declined to comment further, considering the union to still be in confidential negotiations until the agreement receives formal board approval.

Board members repeatedly thanked the teachers union for being willing to return to the table to renegotiate the bonus. President Ken Dauber called the agreement a "win-win for the district and the teachers."

The district has also reached a tentative agreement with its classified-employees union but its membership has yet to ratify it, Brown said. Meb Steiner, president of the Palo Alto chapter of the California School Employees Association (CSEA), declined to state whether the classified union is pursuing the same agreement as the teachers union given it is still in negotiations.

Staff had asked the board to waive its two-meeting rule to approve the agreement with the Palo Alto Educators Association, but a majority of board members declined to do so in order to provide more time for public comment. The agreement will come back for approval on Feb. 27.

The teachers union negotiated over the bonus at the district's request, following an error by district administrators last year that resulted in the district spending $4.4 million in unbudgeted raises for unionized teachers and non-teaching employees.

District administrators  failed to formally notify the teachers and classified unions by a contractual deadline in spring 2017 that the district intended to reopen negotiations so as to negotiate cancellation of a 3 percent raise this year. The contracts also provided for a 1 percent off-schedule bonus that would double if actual property tax revenue received is greater than the amount used in the board-adopted budget by 1.5 percent or more, hence the bonus of 2 percent.

In other business Tuesday, the board unanimously approved a list of criteria for the district's next superintendent. The list was compiled by a firm the board hired to lead its superintendent search. Consultants from the firm gathered feedback on desired characteristics in the next superintendent and the overall state of the district through focus groups and an online survey of administrators, teachers, staff, parents, students and community members.

The board made several edits and additions to the list, but it largely remained the same as presented.

Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates consultant Carolyn McKennan said the firm is now "recruiting in earnest" for the job and has at least 40 candidates interested. The consultants will return to the board on March 27 to identify a slate of semifinalists, plan initial interviews and develop questions for the candidates.

On Tuesday, the board also approved a proposal from board member Todd Collins to place a measure on the November ballot proposing two-term limits for board members. The board voted 4-1, with board member Melissa Baten Caswell — who is currently serving her third term — dissenting. The estimated cost of the ballot measure is $70,000 and up to $12,000 in legal services.


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49 people like this
Posted by George Jaquette
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 14, 2018 at 10:45 am

Kudos to all involved for finding a win-win solution. Giving every teacher (and principal) the money to spend directly in the classroom and for the kids is a wonderful outcome.
The vote also confirms what parents across Palo Alto already know -- our teachers sacrifice very day to help the kids in their classroom, and are willing to invest their personal funds in our children's education.
Thank you teachers for your efforts every day. Any of us who have spent a day in a classroom know how hard it is to stay positive and effective every day of the school year. My hat is off to all of you.

41 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2018 at 10:48 am

WOW! What a sacrifice and gesture by the teachers! How will the commenters on PA Online find a way to vilify them now???

36 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2018 at 11:09 am

I've been following this story closely. Let's get the facts straight before premature kudos. The failure by the District to notify the teacher's union resulted in 2 mistakes: (1) a 3% raise which cost us $4.4 million, and (2) a planned 2% bonus which cost us $2.2 million.

As this story states, ".... union foregoes a 2 percent one-time bonus this year, the funds — about $2.2 million — will be reallocated to increase schools' per-student funding".

Said another way, this goodwill gesture ONLY rectifies the 2% one-time bonus. The 3% unplanned, unintended, unexpected raise that was caused by the District's error STILL GOES THROUGH and was NOT returned by the teacher's union. As the story states: "The contractual error resulted in the district spending $4.4 million in unbudgeted raises for unionized teachers and non-teaching employees."

So thank you teacher union for your willingness to overlook 1/3 of our District's mistake. I mean this sincerely. But for the community, this hardly justifies the "high fives" I see casually tossed around.

24 people like this
Posted by Robert Smith
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2018 at 11:20 am

This was a wise PR move on the part of the teachers' union. They have played their cards very effectively. Perhaps no one will notice that they got a large raise out of the district's errors.

I am not one of those who has blamed the teachers' union for anything. I simply believe that they represent (and are legally required to represent) the will and interests of the teachers. This is an honorable thing to do, but we need to recognize that that is their role.

21 people like this
Posted by Bob
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 14, 2018 at 1:38 pm

@Robert - Large raise??? 3%??? Which planet do you live on?

@BPDad - Ahh, I knew someone would find a way! Kudos

21 people like this
Posted by Thumbs Up
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 14, 2018 at 2:51 pm

Thanks teachers! <3!

21 people like this
Posted by Kathy Jordan
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Kathy Jordan is a registered user.

There seems to be a misunderstanding -

The teacher's union is not giving back any of the money that came about due to what the Weekly called an "avoidable mistake" by the School Board and District staff. Web Link

$4 million of the $6 million blunder are salary increases that the Board voted to eliminate due to economic conditions, but had to pay out due to errors and fiscal mismanagement.

This bonus, (the other $2 million of the $6 million blunder) which is now being spread over the next 6 years rather than being paid out at the end of this year, came about due to the union playing mum and allowing the Board and staff to make another budgeting miscue, according to the Weekly, resulting in the $2 million bonus payout.

This is a PR win, not a real win.

30 people like this
Posted by Duveneck Community Member
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2018 at 6:22 pm

The only thing that continues to surprise me about the Palo Alto Online message boards is that, no matter how long I have lived in this community, the negativity of many of my so-called neighbors is toxic. Given an opportunity to celebrate what is an undeniably positive outcome for our children, a vocal minority insists on attempting to vilify others and infecting the tone of our dialogue.

I have stayed quiet for a long time, knowing that this is simply a small group of people shouting into the anti-PAUSD echo chamber that this paper and its comment section have become. I also know that it would probably be wiser to correct your gross falsehoods (if you have read any of the articles this publication has posted about the pay raises, or even know anything about salary negotiation, you would know how absurd it is to think that any of this money spent on teacher pay was wasted).

However, I'll sink to your level. Although fortunately it has been a few years since my kids were at Duveneck and I have had to interact with some of the frequent posters on this board, I still look back on those moments I had to deal with these specific parents as the only negative experiences I have had in PAUSD.

I only hope that the teachers and parents who work so hard, in good faith, for our children don't read the garbage this comment section attracts. Know that the vast majority of Palo Altans support you, unlike these attention-seeking, entitled few.

21 people like this
Posted by Teacher
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Feb 14, 2018 at 6:41 pm

@duveneck community member: We know, and we appreciate you too!:)

23 people like this
Posted by Weekly Reader
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2018 at 8:38 pm

@Duveneck CM, was money "wasted"? Well, according to the board it was. They thought they could deliver the PAUSD experience with teacher salaries of $X - through a mistake by McGee & Co., they had to pay $X + $4m. That's $4M that isn't available to spend on anything else (smaller classes, aides, any of the many things cut last year), or save for a rainy day.

Yes, teachers got the extra money, that's nice - but they didn't expect it, didn't negotiate for it - it just showed up in their paycheck. How is that not a waste? If the payroll department had calculated the checks wrong by $4M, would you just shrug if off and say how happy you are for the lucky employees? What if had been just in McGee's paycheck - would that be a "waste"?

It's not unduly negative to call something what it is - it's necessary. McGee called his mistake a "misunderstanding" - good grief. If we can't be candid with each other, there's no hope of doing better.

6 people like this
Posted by Forest
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 16, 2018 at 11:22 am

They still need to negotiate for this year since the school exercised their option to reopen negotiations rather than continue with their current contract.

I doubt the pay raise negotiated for this will be zero.

Looks at a metric used to benchmark wages Web Link

-- Inflation for 2017 was 2.1% (this is nationally -- silicon valley is higher)
-- Inflation for 2018 is expected at 1.9% (recent news expects inflation to overshoot Web Link)
-- Inflation going forward from 2019 on is expected at 2.0%

In simple terms, the teachers are due at least a 2% raise each year anyways.

4 people like this
Posted by Forest
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 16, 2018 at 11:27 am

Backing up my previous comment -- bay Area inflation for 2017 was 3.8%, well above the national average.

I am not sure why the teachers are returning their 3% raise instead of asking where the other 0.8% is?

These teachers are saints and have shown they will do anything they can to support our kids over the shenanigans played by the district administrators that seem more interested in their own bonus and severance packages. Even foregoing their raise to replace money taken from their kids.

2 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 16, 2018 at 11:35 am

@Forest - I don't think you are right - this year's negotiation is done. The whole "blunder" was that the district FAILED to reopen negotiations, though they intended to. So the raise for this year is 3%. They still have to negotiate for next year (2018-19) but usually that takes place, oddly, during that year.

A couple considerations missing from your "benchmark" calculations. First, they got an average of 4% the last 4 years - so quite a bit above inflation. At some point, they will regress to the mean. Second, this leaves out the "step and column" increases built into the contract, which reflect time served and degrees earned. These are "hidden" raises that happen for individual employees regardless of the "percent increase" negotiated. So in fact, the teachers have been doing really well the last few years.

Like this comment
Posted by Forest
a resident of Mayfield
on Feb 17, 2018 at 1:53 pm

Thank you @Resident for filling in details. I think you see the glass as half empty.

If the teachers average 4% per year and regional inflation is 3.8% then I don't see the big fuss. This 0.2% is not "quite a bit above inflation."

By not opening negotiations the school district saved themselves 1%... which is 33% of 3%; quite a bit of a nest egg to fluff the admin raises.

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