There was a packed house at the Riverbank Unified School District (RUSD) chambers last week during the school board meeting, with plenty of district employees in attendance. RUSD and RTA (Riverbank Teachers Association) are currently in negotiations for a new contract. During public comment at the board meeting there were several teachers that addressed the board and shared their concerns with the current offer on the table.
RTA lead negotiator Davina Cipriano began public comment asking the district for a higher salary increase than the current seven percent that is being offered plus $2,000 for benefits.
Cipriano said, “We believe that the opening offer of seven percent was a good starting point. We want to put this year’s negotiations behind us with a fair settlement. Our members do not feel that they are a high priority for the district and their well-being is not a concern. We work hard for the district and our students, day in and day out, just to have the district prioritize admin. We have heard time and time again that we need to make sure our admin and district personnel are paid competitively so as to retain qualified employees. But, when it comes to teachers, we are not prioritized in the same way. The district is sending us a very clear message about our worth and how much we are valued.”
Riverbank High School coach and English teacher Monte Wood spoke on behalf of the teachers from the high school. He remarked that it has been seven months that the teachers have gone without a contract for this school year and the cost of living has increased exponentially these past few years. He added that the Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) that the district received was 13.26 percent.
Wood stated, “It is difficult for the teachers to accept the current offer when the district was quick to get through the hiring process for a new superintendent, which we are very happy that happened; we don’t begrudge that and had no problem agreeing to a 20 percent increase in salary for that position. We respectfully ask the board to direct district administration to quickly return to the negotiations table with a fair offer. We are confident that we can work out a fair deal. We always have. Let’s not turn this into a divisive process and waste any more time.”
There were several other district employees that addressed the board, expressing their grievances and pleading their case, including RTA President Richard Beatty.
“As you can see, you have a dedicated staff, but they are concerned that they are not fully appreciated. That their hard work is not being recognized,” expressed Beatty during public comments at the meeting. “Teachers are feeling that their hard work is not recognized or valued. We know that teachers are the foundation of our education system. That teachers make the biggest difference in our students’ growth and development. In these difficult times, we need to attract and retain quality teachers.”
The consensus from the board members was positive that they will reach a fair settlement and that teachers and staff are valued and appreciated.
Board President Diana Gonzalez was positive that the board and the district would work together and look at the numbers to see what they could do. The board plans to give the district direction on the negotiations for the classified and certificated staff. There will be another school board meeting on April 18 and both sides are set to meet on April 21.
“We’ll see what can be done,” stated Gonzalez. “Everything’s negotiable. I would like to see both the district and both units, RTA and CSEA (California School Employees Association), to work things out because I think we could do that. Because I think our relationship with the teachers, we do value them. We appreciate their work. So that’s why we want them to go back to the table. When it comes to money; it always sometimes can be a very tricky situation. I think we could come to an agreement and understanding.”