Because educators and district officials in Rohnert Park, Cotati and Penngrove can’t come to an agreement over salaries, they are heading into a mediation session this week.
Called a fact-finding hearing, both sides will present their final offers along with supporting data and arguments. But members of the Rohnert Park Cotati Educators Association, or RPCEA, say they aren’t even sure the district’s superintendent or school board members will even attend.
On Tuesday, RPCEA members–teachers, nurses, librarians, counselors and speech and language therapists–picketed in Rohnert Park and showed up in force at a school board meeting, asking that the district agree to a new contract, one that increases long-stagnant pay.
“What we want is a wage increase that brings us up just to the average, so that our educators can live in the communities that they teach in,” said Denise Tranfaglia.
Tranfaglia teaches at El Camino High School and serves as RPCEA’s president. For over seven months, about 320 educators in that district have been working with an expired contract, she said.
“We are basically just asking for a consumer price index raise, and that is really the goal… we want to provide the best education for our students, and the only way that we're going to do that is if we get to retain and attract the best educators,” Tranfaglia said. “And we're not going to do that when we are behind in salary.”
KRCB is scheduled to speak with district superintendent Mayra Perez on Thursday morning to hear the district’s perspective on the bargaining that’s been going on since last summer. In October, the two sides declared an impasse when they couldn’t come to a contractual agreement.
RPCEA says district officials routinely under-project it’s annual budget. And that California is currently funding education at unprecedented levels.
“The district asks, ‘let's wait and see what the governor says.’ Well, education is getting a historic amount of money last year and this year.. in our analysis, there is money there and we need to be prioritized,” Tranfaglia said.
Rohnert Park, Cotati and Penngrove educators have voted to call a strike if an agreement isn’t reached in the next month or so. That could affect about 6,000 Sonoma County public school students in the district’s 13 K-12 schools.
The district’s teachers and campus professionals say the goal is to agree on a contract that works for all sides, and avert a strike. But they say they are ready to attend Thursday’s fact-finding hearing and argue for a better deal than what the district offered last fall: A 2% wage increase and a one time $2000 bonus.
“To go forward with the fact-finding hearing with this level of education funds is, among other things, a misuse of public funds on needless attorneys and high paid consultants and, ultimately, forces educators to be out of their classrooms,” according to RPCEA.