April 29, 2021

 

To Our Rincon Valley Families and Our Community, 

 

Last week we let everyone know that we held a strike authorization vote. While this vote received overwhelming support, it was the last thing we wanted.

 

We do not want to strike.  

 

Superintendent Smith has the entire district email list at her fingertips. At times she uses this to keep the district well informed. At times she uses it to sway the narrative with help of her high-priced attorneys. Labor relations have reached an all time low at RVUSD. Multiple Santa Rosa districts receiving their guidance from Dr. Smith’s chosen law firm are at an impasse. 

 

Superintendent Smith and her law firm sent you their account of negotiations to date.

Here is your teachers' account.

 

2019-2020

  • August-February

    • The teachers work in good faith with the district to come to an agreement regarding their contract.

  • March

    • Tentative Agreement reached by both parties

    • Tentative Agreement ratified (agreed to) by the teachers

  • May

    • School Board votes to reject the tentative agreement they originally authorized

    • The teachers declare impasse (meaning there is no agreement in sight) 

  • June & July

    • Mediation takes place: a state-appointed neutral party is assigned to help settle negotiations

    • New agreement is reached by both parties and ratified. This included special education agreements that relate to directly serving our students and was signed by Superintendent Smith on  7/17/2020

 

2020-2021

  • August

    • None of the above signed changes for Special Education are added to the contract. Teachers are told they were “GUIDELINES” and not intended to be binding

  • October

    • All items "sunshined" (brought to the Board, as per our guidelines, to “announce” what we intend to discuss this year at negotiations) at October Board Meeting

    • Superintendent Smith directs the Special Education team to work with the Assistant Superintendent of Student Services to come to an agreement on what is needed to serve our special education students

  • November

    • No agreements made on "sunshined" items from October 2020

    • Everyone focuses on Safety Protocols for Return to In-Person Hybrid

    • The teachers present the Special Education resolutions (agreements) created with Assistant Superintendent of Special Services  

    • Superintendent Smith and the District respond that the Assistant Superintendent of Student Services has no authority to negotiate on the board’s behalf and all resolutions are denied

  • December

    • Teams continue to focus negotiation efforts on in-person learning

    • Teachers email all proposals (including salary and benefits) because the District team asks to close the session without proposals being made on record

    • Superintendent Smith and the District respond to the teachers’ proposals that they are not prepared to make a counter offer

  • January

    • The teachers ratify the return to in-person learning MOU, being praised by the District for being one of the first districts in the county to do so.

    • Superintendent Smith and the District do not make a counterproposal 

    • That afternoon: Superintendent Smith emails a four-page negotiations update to RVUSD families painting teachers as greedy, unreasonable, and not having the best interest of students at heart

  • February

    • After four more months in negotiations, Superintendent Smith and the District counter the teachers proposals with “status quo” offer:

      • No change to salary. Rincon Valley Teachers are 13% below state average. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics ranked Santa Rosa as the fifth least affordable city for teachers to live in in the NATION 

      • No change to benefits 

      • No change in prep time for grades 1-6

      • No significant agreements and improvements on behalf of Special Education students

      • 5 hours of non-compensated time outside of current contract hours for teachers (10 hours of non-compensated time for Speech and Language Pathologists)

    • The teachers declare impasse

  • March  

    • Mediation begins (both teams meet with state-appointed mediator separately)

    • Superintendent Smith and the District state that they do not have a counterproposal

  • April

    • Mediation continues 

    • Superintendent Smith and the District stand on their “status quo” offer

    • The teachers are left without a choice and vote to authorize a strike, if needed  by 95.7% of our district teachers

    • Within a week, the District brings back an offer of a 3% salary increase but only agrees to minimal changes in the Special Education requests

    • The teachers ratify the MOU that allows Rincon Valley Schools to open safely for five days per week for this first time in more than a year

    • That same afternoon Superintendent Smith sends out a misleading letter to every family that paints teachers as greedy and unreasonable

 

The teachers, like many in the district, were excited when Superintendent Smith joined OUR Rincon Valley school community. Unfortunately, under her leadership the morale and labor relations in the district are at an all time low. Superintendent Smith does not live in our community. Superintendent Smith’s law firm’s attorneys do not live in our community. Your teachers do. Superintendents stay in a district a fraction of the time your teachers do. 


 

  • Teachers have worked through the required negotiations process to legally ensure that the return to in-person learning is safe for everyone

  • Teachers have continually trusted the process of “good faith” bargaining to ensure that the needs of students and faculty are recognized by our district leadership

  • Our agreements get systematically rejected, and we continue to be vilified by our district leaders as greedy and self-serving 

 

There are multiple sides to every story. This is ours. The teachers want to be able to provide what is needed for our most vulnerable populations. The teachers want to recruit and retain the best and brightest to our district. The teachers want to be able to live in the community they serve and provide healthcare for their families. 

 

Long after Superintendent Smith and her law firm go back to Marin, your teachers will be here.

 

It is time to go to fact finding and let an impartial judge look at the information and decide whose facts are most accurate and make a fair ruling. The teachers feel confident that fact finding will show we are right. The teachers feel confident that fact finding will illuminate that Superintendent Smith and her law firm are wrong in their depiction of your teachers.

 

We don’t want to strike, and hopefully we won’t have to. Superintendent Smith has unfortunately left us no choice but to put it on the table as a future option. 

 

We stand with your students. We hope you’ll stand with us. Please write to our School Board and direct them to advise Superintendent Smith to repair labor relations with a fair contract that is inclusive of supporting our Special Education students, our teachers, our schools and our community.

 

Sincerely, 

 

Mercedes Thompson 

6th Grade Teacher, Austin Creek Elementary

RVUTA President & Lead Negotiator