Teachers and district officials negotiating contract for next year

March 16, 2024 — by Nicole Lee
LGSUHSD are discussing with the The District Teachers Association about policy negotiations.
The policies agreed on three years ago will expire at the end of this school year.

With the previous 3-year contract signed between the District Teachers Association and the district ending at the end of this school year, the union is now negotiating for a new contract for the upcoming year that they hope includes better pay and other work life improvements.

DTA president Jennifer Young, a math teacher at Los Gatos High School, said many teachers are facing struggles they should not have to face as professionals. According to Young, 71% of District Teachers’ Association members supplement their salary with a second job or activity, and only 15% can afford to live within the district’s boundaries. DTA’s initial proposal regarding salary benefits during the Jan. 30 negotiations is for a 13% salary increase for the 2024-2025 school year. The two parties are currently negotiating when and how a potential salary increase will be implemented. 

According to Young, the district is ranked No. 6 in Santa Clara County for certificated salaries, behind Mountain View-Los Altos Union High, Santa Clara Unified, Fremont Union High, Palo Alto Unified and Los Gatos Elementary. She mentioned the district used to be ranked No. 2 in the county, but other districts have surged ahead in recent years.

In Saratoga and Los Gatos, most of the district’s revenue comes from local property taxes, which aren’t growing in proportion to the costs of running a school district, Young said. That necessitates measures such as asking local residents to approve a $128 parcel tax in a mail-in ballot that must be returned by May 7.

“The best thing parents can do right now is help pass the parcel tax,” Young said. “We will need our community to rally together and get the word out that this parcel tax is necessary to attract and retain quality educators in our district.”

History teacher Margarita Morelle, special education teacher Brian Elliott, math teacher Kelly Frangieh and several teachers from Los Gatos High School are representing the DTA in negotiations. Since January, they have been working with district officials to negotiate a new agreement.

Besides increased salaries and benefits, some of the changes asked for by teachers include a cap on class sizes for most classes, extra pay for coaches who take their teams into the playoffs and work more hours and new provisions regarding providing high-quality  special education services. On the other hand, district officials have proposed changes to other items such as teacher evaluations.

Young said the group can’t reveal details of the bargaining process since negotiations are still ongoing. However, she said she appointed each member of the bargaining team to ensure they were representative of all of the district’s teachers. 

Typically, the negotiation sessions take place during work days and DTA bargaining members organize a substitute to teach their classes. Board members do not participate directly in the negotiations but may give guidance to the superintendent during closed session board meetings.

“Any member of either team can speak up,” Young said. “Each team determines who on their team will present proposals, ask/answer questions, etc.”

Behind the scenes, the DTA’s executive board has been collecting information from members since September through surveys, workgroups, and general membership meetings. Using the collected feedback, the board then directs the bargaining team, who continues the process by writing the proposals. This process is time consuming but necessary, Young said.

So far, the general membership of the bargaining unit has only had a few informational meetings this year due to difficulty gathering 190 members together at the same time. Thus, the bargaining team doesn’t have regularly scheduled meetings and instead tries to get most of their information to members via email. They do, however, have monthly representative council meetings for their 20 reps and 6 executive board members to discuss action items.

“My personal thoughts on negotiations are not relevant as we are bargaining on behalf of all members of our bargaining unit,” Young said. “We are also learning about the district’s finances so the process for asking for anything economic is transparent on both sides.”

In 2021, the teachers were in a similar situation as this year, the main difference being that the only article brought up was article 5 (salary & benefits). At the end of those negotiations in 2022, the teachers and board settled a 3-year agreement that allowed each side to re-open up to 2 articles each year for negotiations. 

So far, the team has had several bargaining days  and plan to continue these negotiations for as long as needed. The last scheduled date for these negotiations ends in March, but Young says the group is willing to go past the initial planned schedule.

Waving posters with pro-education messages, dozens of teachers made an appearance outside of both schools in late January to raise awareness about the ongoing negotiations and the issue of declining teacher pay. 

“I don’t have any predictions, but I’m hopeful that DTA and the district will be able to come to an agreement that is in the best interest of addressing student needs and supporting our educators,” Young said. “The landscape of education has changed drastically over the last 5-10 years and we are losing quality educators not just from our district, but from education completely. We have to find a way to make this profession more manageable and honor the work that is being done.”

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