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Fresno School Board Inks Contract with SEIU. Teachers Unhappy with Their Contract Talks.



(GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)
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The Fresno Unified School Board needed no discussion and mere minutes Wednesday night to approve a new three-year contract with the Service Employees International Union that represents the district’s “blue collar” workers.

Meanwhile, teachers whose union also is negotiating a new contract had spent 45 minutes earlier Wednesday telling the trustees about their unhappiness with the ongoing talks, which they said include demands by the district to add more minutes for teacher meetings and for teachers to be evaluated based on their students’ performance.

Their union, the Fresno Teachers Association, has arranged for teachers from the district’s different regions to speak to the board during public comment periods that precede the board’s closed session agenda.

Kelly Petersen, an autism inclusion education specialist at Bullard High School, said her job is to help students with autism develop their social skills and prepare for daily tasks.

“So I’m wondering how the district is going to evaluate me when it comes to evaluations and my teaching as it links to student performance,” she said. “Is the district going to ask my students if they brushed their teeth? Are they going to ask if they are friends, do they get along with people, even the ones they don’t like?”

Students’ Use of Edgenuity ‘Insulting’

Hoover High teacher Jeremy Wright told the board that the district’s reliance on the Edgenuity program for credit recovery is undermining classroom teachers because students see no need to pay attention or do work during the regular school year when they can pass a class using Edgenuity in just a few days in winter or summer session.

“It’s insulting to us as teachers, but that’s the least of our worries. It’s also insulting to the kids that did work hard and pulled their grade up and got the B or C, but really, we’re doing those children who got the As, we’re making them dependent on Big Brother coming in and miracling them,” Wright said. “And as a member of this society, as a member of this community, and as a graduate of Thomas Elementary and Tioga and Hoover myself, the product we’re putting out there is more important than a graduation rate.

“We’re all for helping kids. But when we put kids in summer school and they can redo seven classes in one summer school session, what’s the point of them paying attention in our class? And we’re the ones that are sitting here, we’re working our rear ends off making these lesson plans, and the kids don’t care.”

As has been the case in prior board meetings, the trustees had little response to the teachers’ comments, other than to note that contrary to one student’s pleadings, the Men’s Alliance program at Hoover High is not in jeopardy.

The Fresno Teachers Association and district are negotiating a new contract to replace the contract that expires at the end of the current school year in June.

New Contract for SEIU

By contrast, SEIU Local 521’s 719 district employees had been working without a contract this year. The new agreement, which covers this year and the next two years, ties potential pay raises of 1% to 3% to increases in state money provided through the Local Control Funding Formula, and an additional 0.5% increase if sufficient one-time funds are provided to the district in each of the three years.

Additionally, the employees, which include bus drivers and maintenance workers, will get a $5,000 pay boost this year that will be pro-rated on whether they were on the job as of July 1 or later in the school year.

Typically, Fresno Unified contracts are negotiated with “me too” clauses that affect other bargaining units. FTA President Manual Bonilla did not respond to a query from GV Wire on Thursday morning as to whether the SEIU agreement might impact teacher compensation in the upcoming contract.

He sent this text when asked what the SEIU contract might mean for FTA’s negotiations: “We applaud them for finalizing their contract. We look forward to working together with them in the future with their substitutes to address classroom concerns.”

Later Thursday Bonilla said that FTA’s proposal is for all employees to receive an annual salary increase equal to any increase that the district gets from the state: “This is a fair, equitable, affordable, and easy to comprehend method.”

Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email