The winter holiday period often breaks up schedules and puts school on the back burner. For Sebastopol’s Gravenstein Union school district, this year’s holiday might herald a strike.
Maybe not the Grinch, but mean-spirited all the same. That’s the feeling staff at the district say they felt towards the conclusion of a recent fact-finding hearing before a neutral chair.
Gravenstein Union School District's superintendent, Dave Rose said negotiations remain in play.
"We're still in discussions," Rose said. "We had a brief session on Wednesday right before Thanksgiving with members of the GUCE Leadership team. We talked about the collective bargaining agreement and the salary and benefit offer. Very difficult for them to surface that offer to their membership during the holiday."
The recent fact-finding recommendations varied, but sided towards the district’s arguments on the most important issue: wages.
Rose reiterated the district stance on the wage offers the fact-finder reviewed.
"Our board is committed to having our staff be amongst the top compensated employees in the county," Rose said. "And every one of our offers to both of our teachers and our classified staff do indeed make our employees in the top five in the county in compensation."
But Gravenstein’s classified employees union, known by the acronym GUCE, disagreed with the findings, in a statement following the fact finder's report a representative wrote:
“School district budgets are moral documents that express a district’s values. Through its refusal to fairly compensate GUCE educators, despite having millions of unrestricted dollars to do so, [the district] shows it does not value educators, nor the students they serve.”
Rose pointed to fiscal concerns.
"As administrators, as board members, we can't just look at one facet of this," Rose said. "We can't just look at the cost of living and how much we'd love to pay these, so gifted and dedicated employees, because if we do that, we're being fiscally irresponsible. And what will happen is in the very near future, we will wind up deleting programs, deleting support staff, or cutting staff."
While the union could not be reached for comment, in that same written response to the fact-finder’s recommendations, a union representative noted the district’s 2022-23 budget includes an additional $300,000 for GUCE salaries compared to the previous school year. That's enough to offer a 24% wage increase when compared to the previous allocated funds.
The fact-finder recommends a 7% increase.