San Dieguito classified employees’ negotiations reach ‘stalemate’ over raises

Classified employee Carlos Magana addresses the board on Aug. 22.

The California School Employees Association’s negotiations with the San Dieguito Union High School District for 2018-19 have continued into the new school year, as the classified employees union demands equity with certificated teachers.

Classified employees that are part of the California School Employees Association (CSEA) filled the board room on Aug. 22 to address their disappointment in the collective bargaining process, which they said has reached a stalemate.

“We don’t really feel respected around here,” classified employee Jason Rowe told the board during public comment. “We at CSEA feel disrespected and disregarded.”

“Pay us a reasonable wage to show us how much you care about us,” echoed Jim Munger, a special education instructional assistant at Torrey Pines High School. “We are tired of hearing ‘there is just no money for you, there’s no budget for a bigger raise, that is all we can afford’.”

Classified positions in a school district are positions that don’t require a teaching credential such as paraprofessionals, healthcare professionals, food service, administrative office employees, campus supervisors and maintenance staff.

In March, the board approved an agreement with the San Dieguito Faculty Association following its own collective bargaining effort that resulted in a one percent pay raise for certificated teachers retroactive to July 1, 2018. That one percent increase also went to management and the superintendent.

According to Munger, the CSEA has come to the bargaining table asking for a five percent increase and were offered one percent by the district. CSEA then came down to three percent and were again offered one percent.

Oak Crest Middle School health technician Laura August said the CSEA cannot accept the one percent that the teachers received because it is not equitable—it is in the SDUHSD teachers’ contracts that they remain the top paid teachers in the county.

“If our staff could have the same clause in our contract that we would be the highest paid classified staff in San Diego County, just like the teachers, there would be no need to bang our heads against the wall to fight for a reasonable wage,” August said.

San Dieguito Superintendent Robert Haley said that he has the utmost respect for classified support staff and the work they do for the students. He said the district will continue to meet at the table with them in an effort to reach an agreement.

“We want all of our employees to believe they are valued and respected,” Haley said. “All of us, both certificated and classified support staff, have roles to play so that our students can learn in classrooms with teachers.”

Carlos Magana, school plant supervisor at Diegueno Middle School, said despite speaking before the board on several occasions, he feels like the classified employees have been ignored by the district and their voices silenced.

“We are told that we are appreciated but yet our membership continues to dwindle and our workload grows,” Magana said. “Our responsibilities and job descriptions grow and we are expected to consume this burden and not seek the proper resources to get our day-to-day tasks done in a safe and efficient manner.”

Magana said that classified staff has to fight for resources that the district should morally and ethically be providing such as safety gear and bilingual stipends that the certificated staff receives.

Haley said the district agrees on the need for a bilingual stipend and wants to work with CSEA and the district’s personnel commission to implement it. “We also agree our staff need to have the uniforms and safety equipment required for their work,” he said.

Rowe said the CSEA questions the district’s position that there is limited funding in spite of spending that they have observed or heard about—many classified staff members have been regularly attending board meetings. He questioned expenditures such as creating a district photographer position for $100,000 and rumors that the district used a limousine to tour a district office building in Palm Springs.

“We find it insulting that the district has no issue spending thousands on an office move and office expansion for our current superintendent and yet there is an issue in paying $3 more a month to a food service employee earning a bare bones salary,” Rowe said.

In response to the photographer position Rowe referenced, earlier in the year the district contracted with a communication specialist for an up to amount of $50,000 to take photographs and videos of students, teachers and school events as well as redesign the website and improve social media to improve internal and external communications.

The board renewed the contract up to an amount of $50,000 in July for a period ending in Dec. 31, however, Haley said they may or may not use the full amount. At the Aug. 22 meeting, the board discussed adding a new position of communication coordinator which they hope to fill this fall.

Haley said district staff did travel to visit other school district offices in Poway, Coronado and Palm Springs as part of their district office feasibility study although the architect rented a van to move committee members, not a limousine.

Haley said the district continues its office study and is exploring its options. In addition to the Earl Warren Middle School site, the district is also completing an analysis of the district-owned property on Vulcan Avenue. Haley said at the Sept. 19 meeting, they will have a report on the properties and possibilities.

“It is my sincere hope we can reach an agreement collaboratively with CSEA. Above all else, we want economic stability for our employees,” Haley said. “We do not want the district to be in a position of agreeing to raises that result in cuts to vital student supports and layoffs of employees.”