Q&As about the Impasse
On Tuesday, November 17, the Volusia County School district announced its decision to declare impasse with the Volusia United Educators (VUE) regarding the Teacher Salary Allocation. If we are to continue to move forward as a district, we must continue to have clear communication and answer the tough questions.
We want to thank our teachers and staff for reading the information sent out and reaching out with questions. Although we will respond to anyone who emails personally, we feel it is important to share with everyone the answers to those questions most frequently asked. Below, you will find answers to questions that were sent in via email and social media. If you have further questions, you are encouraged to email Rachel Hazel, Director of Human Resources, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am a teacher. When will I see my raise?
At this time, we cannot give you a definitive timeline. The purpose of declaring impasse was to expedite the process. There are several steps that must happen in order to get the money in the hands of our teachers. Impasse does not mean that we cannot continue to bargain with Volusia United Educators, but it does mean that we believe we are still far apart and to continue to bargain indefinitely would not be advantageous for anyone. The following steps must occur:
- A hearing before a special magistrate
- A hearing before the School Board, which will make a recommendation to send to the Department of Education
- Approval of the plan from the Department of Education
- Release of the funds to the district
- Distribution of funds to instructional staff
All of these steps take time. We can and will continue to negotiate. Our next session is scheduled for November 30. Should we reach a resolution at that session, steps 1 and 2 would not be necessary. The board could then approve our plan and send to the Department of Education for final approval. It is to goal of the Superintendent and district to get the money in the hands of our instructional staff as soon as possible.
I am VUE Support or AFSCME. Does this mean I don’t get a raise?
VUE Support and AFSCME salary increases and retroactive payments were approved by the School Board at the last meeting. Raises will be in the checks prior to Winter Break and retro payment will follow. These negotiations have no implications for our VUE Support or AFSCME staff.
Why declare impasse after only four sessions? During the reopening negotiations, impasse was not declared until after 15 sessions.
These are two very different scenarios. It is true that during reopening we met 15 times before VUE declared impasse. However, there were many issues that needed to be resolved during the reopening phase. In fact, there were 15 issues discussed at the last impasse hearing. The School Board imposed a resolution regarding four of those issues, and 11 were withdrawn and discussed at a School Board Workshop.
The negotiations that we are currently engaged in center around one issue – distribution of the Teacher Salary Allocation. The bottom line is that there are only so many ways to allocate 20% of the allocation when legislation has dictated how to allocate 80%. It is reasonable to assume that there would not be as many sessions when there are fewer issues. Most of our surrounding counties have settled or have begun the Impasse process. Again, this is not a refusal to continue discussions, but is a way to expedite approval of a plan.
The press release said that impasse was declared now so that this could be resolved before the next cycle of negotiations. When is the next cycle, and will it really take that long?
Per contract, negotiations can start as early as March 2021. Often, we wait until the legislation has determined the budget to meet; however, this year is open book meaning that all contract language can be negotiated. The district would like to start discussions as soon as possible to allow for meaningful and professional conversation. As VUE has pointed out, December is a short month. Depending on the length of time needed for each step above, it could take time to resolve. We are hopeful that we would not need that much time.
Why say the Union wouldn’t meet? Next week is Thanksgiving – November 30 is the first day we are back.
Our last bargaining session was November 9, 2020. At the end of the session, the district asked for dates to return to the table. VCS proposed dates later that week and the week of November 16. That is two weeks that could have been used to schedule sessions. The district offered to rearrange meetings; however, VUE was not available until November 30. We are ready, willing and able to continue discussions at that time.
I don’t understand the proposal. I make less than $44,335. Am I getting $44,335 or 2%?
It is actually the greater of the two amounts. If you make less than the minimum proposed salary of $44,335, you will be brought up to at least that amount. For example, if your salary is $44,300 you would not get a $35 raise. You would get a 2% raise. However, if bringing you up to $44,335 is at least 2%, that would be your raise.
This proposal sends a strong message that veteran teachers aren’t valued. Why would the district do that?
To answer this question, one really needs to read the legislation and look at the intent of the legislation. The Teacher Salary Allocation was specifically designated to raise the MINIMUM TEACHER SALARY to as close to $47,500 as possible. To that end, the legislation has specific requirements that 80% of the allocation MUST be used solely for that purpose. Additionally, the legislation left out a large number of who they consider to be non-classroom teachers. Despite our School Board Member advocating for this money to be distributed with no strings attached, it was not allocated that way. There are two things that the district has included in the proposal to make the proposal more equitable given the parameters set by the legislature:
- The raise percentages are staggered as requested by VUE giving those with more seniority a higher percentage.
- The proposal includes a $250,000 supplement to the allocation from the general fund to ensure that all teachers are included.
Additionally, the district will continue to implement the longevity bonus previously negotiated for our veteran teachers. This is a structure that we are committed to continuing and, while not a part of these negotiations, it does communicate that veteran teachers were a priority in the last negotiation cycle and discussions will be continued in the spring. The longevity bonus is in addition to the raise in the current proposal.
How could Dr. Balgobin receive a raise during this time when teachers are still waiting?
There are several items to address with this topic:
- Dr. Balgobin was hired in January 2020 as the Deputy Superintendent. We have had Deputy Superintendents in the past, and under Dr. Fritz’s restructure, that is a position that was reinstated. Her salary at that time was set at a rate commensurate with the work of a Deputy Superintendent.
- In July 2020, an announcement was made that Dr. Fritz would be taking a leave of absence that has been extended to February 2021. At that time, Dr. Balgobin was appointed Superintendent with the understanding that she would return to the role of Deputy Superintendent when Dr. Fritz returns. A district cannot legally operate without a Superintendent. Therefore, it was necessary to appoint a Superintendent in his absence.
- Dr. Balgobin assumed the role of Superintendent and did not appoint a Deputy Superintendent. She has continued to function in both roles with the support of cabinet.
- The board voted to adjust her salary to a prorated annual amount of $195,000 during the time that she is the Superintendent. This is less than the current Superintendent’s salary. This amount will only be paid for the time she is in the position. Upon the return of Dr. Fritz, her salary will return to the previous amount.
- This is not a raise, as reported. A raise is an increase in salary or hourly rate that is permanent and given for the same amount of work. Neither of these are the case.
- This is not 34%, as reported. If the math is done correctly, it is a 20% adjustment.
- Dr. Balgobin stated from the beginning that she did not wish to receive any adjustments until the teachers’ salaries had been settled. She has formally asked that payment be delayed until the teachers are paid. Just as with the teachers’ payments, negotiations occurred prior to payment.