The Riverbank Teachers Association (RTA) is still in negotiations with Riverbank Unified School District and at a school board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 2 a major topic was the 2015-16 Budget update provided by Roberto Perez, Chief Business Official and Marcus Wirowek, Senior Director of Human Resources.
Riverbank teachers met at Pizza Plus in downtown Riverbank prior to the 5:30 p.m. meeting on Tuesday night, where they gathered together to discuss their current situation. After their meal, teachers grabbed their picket signs and walked to the school board meeting a short distance away, where they made their presence known at the district office.
The teachers, parents, and some Riverbank Language Academy staff members made their way through the doors and filled up each seat, which left standing room only.
With the room being over capacity and safety concerns being expressed, District Superintendent Daryl Camp and Board of Trustees President Suzanne Dean stepped out of the room to discuss how to best handle the situation.
During this time the Fire Marshal had arrived as well as Riverbank Police Service deputies to evaluate the situation.
After review of the situation the district opened two classrooms at adjacent Adelante High School to try to accommodate the overflow of people, where they set up an audio and video for guests to stay informed.
The meeting then went into a closed session at 5:40 p.m. and was to reconvene at 7 p.m.
The delay of the meeting did cause some members of the public to leave; however, many people stayed.
“In our case it was really a reaction to potential litigation,” added Camp regarding moving to a closed session to begin the meeting. “It was unplanned for us.”
He also said the large crowd prompted some quick thinking as well to accommodate the number of people.
Camp stated that although there were remarks made that the audio and video were not very good at times in the other rooms, they tried to make it work and will investigate how to make it better if the situation occurs again.
Once the open session portion of the meeting resumed, Perez went through the district’s budget, which is available on the district’s website www.riverbank.k12.ca.us.
The power point budget presentation also lists RTA salary rankings compared to other districts in the area, with Riverbank at 18th in the county. There were also key highlights between RUSD and the RTA proposals like RUSD has offered a 4 percent salary increase and RTA would like a 12.5 percent increase. RUSD has proposed keeping within current instructional minutes, adjust bell schedule to provide up to two additional minimum days per month for collaboration and RTA has requested additional steps on the salary schedule to name a few items on the negotiating table.
With talks still at the local level there will be a few more days where RTA and RUSD can possibly come to an agreement during the negotiations.
“Teachers are invested in the students and care about the community,” stated Richard Beatty, RTA Organizing Chair. “We want what’s best for our students, but the District is pushing teachers away. Good teachers are going to be leaving the district and with the teacher shortage, their replacements are going to be hard to find.
“A few teachers have already left, and more are planning to leave. A few of those planning to leave have already found jobs with higher pay and better working conditions. If things don’t get better, more will follow.”
The teachers have been uniting in several ways like wearing black shirts on Tuesdays district wide and they meet before school at the flag pole as well as meet after school.
“The point of this activity is to try to communicate with parents about what is happening,” said Beatty. “We are trying to make everyone aware.
“The District needs to settle this contract right now, so that teachers can get to work doing what they do best ... providing a quality education for the students of Riverbank.”
After the budget update several teachers stepped up to the podium and expressed their concerns.
Camp also expressed that the District is willing to meet with RTA after hours or on weekends to get the negotiations resolved.
“I am highly optimistic that we will be able to work out an agreement,” stated Camp.