At the last school board meeting before the break, during her presentation to the school board, Davis Teachers Association President Dianna Huculak read a letter from the Willet teachers:
“Students are at the center of everything that we do. This is the motto and core belief of DTA that we shared over and over again as we’ve stood from the school board and district office, administrators pleading for actions towards DJUSD’s gaping compensation gap.
“District has repeatedly assured us that an important focus of the strategic plan is to attract and retain highly qualified teachers. This cannot be done without higher pay – which the board and district office has admitted.
“So imagine our surprise when we opened the Davis Enterprise on Wednesday evening and read about the district’s leaders planned budget presentation to the board that despite the acknowledgement of increased funding for our district, makes no mention of teacher compensation.
“This was a vague comment, we must use caution in spending down one-time reserves for ongoing activities. One might assume that that means teacher pay. Instead they’re proposing contract extensions for the top four district employees, Superintendent Bowes and his colleagues, for two more years. Does this increase the three percent annual raise that they built into their contract to reward themselves each year?
“They stated that this contract extension will not have a fiscal impact on the district, but the addition of a three percent on four large salaries over two more years is about $120,000. While certainly not enough to pay for a district wide teacher raise, it is a substantial amount of funds that are being given to a small number of employees.
“If actions speak louder than words – what are Davis educators being told this month as our leaders present to the board? What are we supposed to hear from this utter disregard of the professionals that are actually making a difference with the children in our town?
“I know what I saw this morning – I saw flabbergasted and disillusioned faces, defeated and disappointed educators, walking off to their classrooms to start another day of the most important job that there is – teaching children. We are the school house. We make the difference. Do not ignore us – we are here, we are listening and we are watching.
“Board members please do not approve this contract extension or any new spending until your teachers are making a fair wage that represents the city’s respect for education and the children we serve.”
Reading her own comments, Ms. Huculak said that even though the trustees have heard from 90 percent of the membership on these issues, “the hard truth is that our members do not feel heard or valued by the district. Building trust is predicated on school trustees showing educators that you are not only listening but are taking meaningful action.
“Yet several actions undertaken by the school district have undermined this trust. For example, offering a one-percent, one-time bonus to teachers after dozens of teachers have stood before the
board publicly sharing their personal struggles of providing basic care and necessities to their young families. Affording doctor’s visits to maintain their health. Saving for their children’s college education. Worrying about retirement or just being able to afford groceries at the end of the month.
“To teachers, that shows us that you weren’t listening.
“Sending out a bargaining update weeks after a bargaining date at the beginning of the holiday season, threatening to lay off 80 teachers, was not an action that builds trust or demonstrates the school board was listening to the concerns of, or is particularly compassionate about or sensitive to the financial hardships that teachers face.
“Attempting to sow division among teachers with multi-tiered health care system does not show us that you want to be a partner in solving health care for all members. And again does not build trust with our membership.
“Beginning the bargaining year with a proposal that does nothing to retain existing teachers or improve anything about their professional lives – after you’ve heard letters as to why teachers have left the district or you’ve heard about how teachers are planning on leaving or how teachers are concerned about equity in their core classes because their classes are so overloaded with students, again this shows us that you have not heard our concerns.
“After being assured that ‘the wage gap’ was the school board’s No. 1 priority, teachers are understandably concerned and confused that, according to our superintendent, closing a budgeted deficit years in the future is the No. 1 priority of the school district. Showing teachers that yet again, the district is planning on balancing their budget on the backs of teachers’ livelihood and health.
“DTA is understandably frustrated because thus far the actions of the school district and by extension the school board do not demonstrate that meaningful action will be taken. The proposals offered in the tradition of longstanding district practices that have resulted in a teacher retention crisis that threatens the stability of our programs in an ever-widening wage gap, do not demonstrate your comment to support student learning and stable student communities.
“While DTA has taken a position cautiously in a support of a parcel tax, to succeed in this endeavor educators, and not buildings, must be your priority. This is one way that you can begin to build trust.
“Now that money and the general funds (have) been freed up, that new revenue should be directed to ongoing increases on the salary scale for all teachers –that is another way to show teachers that you are listening.
“I remind you yet again, that we are working under an expired contract. Continuing with the status quo is no longer possible. DTA knows that parents and the community value our contribution and our tireless efforts to improve student learning.
“It is my hope that for the coming year, the school board is able to reflect these community values in budget.”
Ms. Huculak told the Vanguard as well that Board Members Barbara Archer and Alan Fernandes were assigned as DTA liaisons at Thursday’s board meeting. However, Tom Adams, now board president, informed her prior to the meeting, “that the school board will no longer participate in 2×2 meetings with DTA leadership while we are in collective bargaining. For at least a decade, two school board members have met with two presidents of DTA who represent 500 teachers, for dialogue and problem solving, regardless of bargaining.”
She told the Vanguard, “DTA is disappointed that the school board is no longer interested in keeping this important line of communication open during this challenging time. Moreover, the board’s actions are putting the ability to solve problems jointly in danger. DTA looks forward to the board resuming this important shared practice.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting