By Jan Dalske In June of 2016, a California state agency, the Delta Conservancy, awarded the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) a grant of $380,000. The money will be used to implement a More »
Mediation Battle Continues
By Michele Townsend
The negotiation battle between West Sacramento’s Teachers and Washington Unified School District (WUSD) continues after yet another bargaining meeting has come and gone, and still no settlement has been made. Public schools are funded by the government through federal, state, and local taxes, and most are part of a larger school system. Elected school board members and education officials implement and oversee strict rules and procedures that public schools must follow. These rules and procedures not only include what needs to be done, but also how things will be done, and by whom. Salary negotiations are no exception. The negotiation/mediation process occurs in steps of give and take (you hope!), until a settlement is made. Each step in the process has strict guidelines on what is and isn’t allowed to take place and the deadline in which that step must be completed by. The current negotiations began in May 2015. They begin when both parties (WUSD and Washington Teacher’s Association , or WTA) bargaining teams sit at the table together to understand each parties’ interests. When satisfaction between the two parties cannot be reached, a third party, or Mediator, is assigned to the negotiations. The impartial mediator listens to both sides and tries to come up with a satisfactory compromise. If no resolution is obtained by the mediator the mediator then brings in a Fact Finder. A Fact Finder is now in charge of the official panel. Once a Fact Finder is assigned, the parties do not sit together to negotiate. The Fact Finder meets with a mediator representing each team. to gather all information from both sides. The fact finding meeting was held on Thursday, August 25th. The mediator reportedly spent a considerable amount of time with both parties. All were optimistic, but again no settlement was reached. When a settlement is still not reached through mediation, the next step is “Fact finding”. A fact finder is appointed and agreed upon by both parties as a neutral person to listen and mediate between parties. Both parties have a mediator that works with the appointed fact finder. This is the step that the bargaining process is currently at.
On August 30th, 2016 the fact finding meeting was held. After 11 grueling hours the fact finding was unsuccessful. Don Stauffer, President of WTA, posted on WTA’s Facebook page “Technically, we are still in bargaining, and can continue to meet with the District. Currently, however, there are no further bargaining sessions scheduled”. Since the negotiations are still legally under fact finder control, all parties are “very harshly instructed” not to speak about ANY details regarding the negotiations. The one thing that all parties agree on, is that they are frustrated and exhausted. It seems they all felt “it was very close, but just couldn’t quite get there”. Both the WTA and the WUSD are providing as much information as possible to the public, and both have a lot of information on their websites.
As we saw at the multiple school board meetings where there were so many people in attendance that the room could barely fit everyone, as well as the protest held last Monday at River City High School by students and parents, this is not just any old dispute. We’re talking about our teachers. These are the people that not only provide our children’s academic instruction, but help our kids grow emotionally and socially as well. Many of them commute for miles, knowing that they could make more money somewhere else, but staying here because they love our kids, our town, and our district. They love our diversity, and enjoy seeing our children thrive. Many of them have been here through all of the growth and changes that have occurred in the last decade. They have gone through the training of new curriculum, and then again when additional new curriculum was adopted. Some of them were even our teachers, and now they are teaching our children. It is for these reasons, and so many more, that this topic has our community up in arms. We ALL support our teachers. This does, in fact, include the district and the board members.
In addition to the 150 students and adults that attended the protest that was held in front of RCHS, there are a number of parents that feel they can’t just sit around and wait. They want to make sure that the school board and the administration know how strongly they feel about the support for their teachers. As reported last week in the West Sacramento News Ledger, a group of parents held a meeting outside of school to plan a district wide “sit out” for Sept. 6th. the idea now, is to get the administrations attention about how strongly the community feels about taking care of the teachers that take care of us! What WUSD would like to explain is that the administration is not involved any decisions at this point, as the official panel has full control now. In addition, WUSD hears and knows the concern of teachers every day, and their “attention” will have no baring on the outcome. The school district and yes, the teachers, cannot stress enough that though they appreciate the passion and conviction, they feel that a sit out is the wrong way to show support. Parent Daisy Po’oi has created a Facebook page at Parentssupport#WTA. She is posting information about the negotiations, discussions, and has posted a draft letter of support that can be sent to the Board of Education. She said “The page will evolve and include more as the situation progresses and the community comes together”. There has been some negative feedback as well. Many parents are concerned that this topic is taking up class time and that it is not appropriate conversation for school. It is, in fact, talked about at schools, but that is because school is the common ground. But rest assured, it is not likely to be the staff that brought it up, nor are they allowing it to be disruptive. In fact, Education Code prohibits it. Both the teachers, and the children that I spoke to assured me that this is not, in fact, a classroom topic. The older kids who understand what is going on want to show their support and opinion. So far, they have all done it respectfully and appropriately. As for the younger kids, they may not understand the topic, but they may have heard people mention that we need to stick up for their teachers. Chances are, they are just trying to do that, and it doesn’t matter why.
It’s not just the parents that want to know what’s going on, however. School board member Coby Pizzotti has stated that he not only welcomes, but encourages, all community members, students and parents that want to show support, or speak to him regarding this topic, to please contact him. He would like to hear what everyone has to say between now and September 26.. Mr Pizzotti has stated that he can be reached by email; firstname.lastname@example.org, cell phone, West Sacramento community discussion board, community forum, private message on Facebook, or by letter. He also stressed that he will do his VERY BEST to answer every correspondence that he receives as quickly as possible. He really does want the community’s input so that he can present it to the board prior to the release of the fact finding report on September 26 by the neutral member of the fact finding panel.
For more information and clarification regarding the negotiations visit WTA’s facebook at https://www.facebook.com/wtateachers/?fref=ts or WUSD’s website at http://www.wusd.k12.ca.us/Departments/Communication http://www.wusd.k12.ca.us/Departments/Communication—Community-Outreach/Negotiations-Updates/index.html. You may also call WUSD Human Recourses Dept. at (916)375-7600, ext. 1046.
The Yolo Land Trust honors Clarksburg Farmer Greg Merwin at “A Day in the Country”
The Yolo Land Trust’s signature event “A Day in the Country” will be held this year on Sept. 11 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Barger Keasey Family Farm near Davis.
The Yolo Land Trust will honor Greg Merwin of Clarksburg at the event. Greg served on the Yolo Land Trust Board of Directors for eight years, and has continued to monitor the Land Trust’s conservation portfolio for an additional seven years.
He is affectionately referred to as “YLT Monitor Extraordinaire” taking time from his busy life of community service to monitor and photograph conserved farmlands using his immense skill and knowledge of Yolo County. Greg has been farming in Clarksburg since 1957.
“We are very fortunate to have Greg assist us during our monitoring season,” said Michele Clark, Executive Director of the Yolo Land Trust. “We are pleased to acknowledge his contribution to us and to the greater Yolo community by his exemplary service.”
A Day in the Country features delicious tastings from top chefs representing over 20 restaurants. Each chef creates special dishes featuring food grown on Yolo County’s rich farmland. Farms, ranches, vineyards and breweries throughout Yolo County join in providing delicious tastings and beverages.
Live music performed by The Bonanza King Band will make it an especially enjoyable Sunday afternoon.
Tickets are still available at the reduced price of $85. The price will increase on Sept. 1. To sponsor, purchase tickets or for general information visit our website at www.theyololandtrust.org or contact our office at 530-662-1110. Tickets may not be available at the door, so buy tickets in advance.
Students and parents protest for raising teachers’ wages and settling on a contract
By Monica Stark
There has been a tumultuous start to the beginning of this school year in West Sacramento. With gossip of teachers striking and high school students texting messages to their peers that they support their teachers and therefore they all should skip school, the atmosphere, suffice to say is one of uneasiness.
Everyone wants things to settle between the Washington Unified School district and the teachers’ union, the Washington Teachers Association, before they get worse.
No one seems to want a strike, but things are dire in West Sac. According to teachers, this is the second year with no contract.
In response to various questions, Giorgos Kazanis, spokesman for the Washington Unified School District said the district “will continue to keep our community apprised of changes and updates involving our contract negations process. If members of the community would like to seek additional information, they can visit our WUSD Negotiations Updates webpage or call our Human Resources Department at (916) 375-7600, ext. 1046.”
Teachers and the district go into fact-finding this week with a neutral party meaning all the facts regarding the teachers’ situation should be brought to the table from both sides.
Meanwhile, about 200 students held a protest at River City Monday before first period in front of the school, a preview of what’s to come Tuesday, Sept. 6, as parents and students are planning a massive sick-in. Parents will call their child’s school and say the reasons for the absence is “sick: settle teacher contracts now.”
A junior at RCHS, Pierre Clay, gave a shout out to his favorite teachers: Mr. Malec, (Marlaina) Schroeder, Ms. Majia-Hays, Ms. Wiley (rest in peace), and all the teachers at Southport. He said he was out Monday supporting the teachers in protest because he doesn’t like that they get paid less than most others throughout the state. He’s afraid of having “garbage substitutes” that would replace the teachers if there was a strike.
Similarly Oscar Flores, also a junior, said just wearing green isn’t going to do anything, but having lots of kids miss school will have an impact. He spoke about one of his teachers who lives out of the area but chooses to teach in West Sacramento for its diversity even though she could make $14,000 more a year elsewhere. He is protesting in support of her (and other teachers).
Mariah Alves, a senior and a dancer, fears dance will be taking away, because extracurriculars aren’t being funded. She plans on missing school on Sept. 6 because “nothing will happen (change) if I go to school.”
The WTA does not support the sick-in, WTA board member and Bridgeway Island teacher Douglas Knepp told the News-Ledger.
The settlement decision after the fact-finding can take up to four weeks and so having the “sick-in” next week is meant to influence the outcome and prevent a strike.
Parents are rallying for the teachers. Many parents grew up in the area and have enjoyed watching their children have the same teachers as they did. And it’s those long-term teachers parents are afraid of losing.
Mom Daisy Po’oi said “what this means is that not only have they not been compensated fairly, they have been required to work more hours under the same pay and the increase that was promised to them last year was never met. These are long time teachers who have been around over eight years and chose our district, not the ones they pass by every day on their way to work.”
Po’oi held an hour-long meeting at Round Table Pizza on Jefferson Boulevard with parents on Sunday night to help explain the teachers’ situation and to organize parents in rallying together to have their kids miss school on Sept. 6. To them, this action could have a huge impact, as attendance equals dollars to public school districts. They rather have a bunch of kids miss one day and positively influence negotiations to prevent a strike, which could mean many more days of no school. Parents mentioned there just aren’t enough substitute teachers at the district if there was a strike to cover the situation. According to teachers, over the last two years, the District’s revenue has increased 20 percent. WTA’s last salary proposal is seven percent. “Given this, our salary proposal is reasonable, and WUSD can afford it – especially since we’re still so far behind neighboring districts,” Don Stauffer told the board of trustees at the Aug. 25 meeting.
In speaking at the school board meeting during public comment, Stauffer gave the following overview: “Over the last two years, the District’s revenue has increased 20 percent. WTA’s last salary proposal is seven percent. Given this, our salary proposal is reasonable, and WUSD can afford it – especially since we’re still so far behind neighboring districts.”
Stauffer broke down a recent WUSD bargaining update. He quoted the district: “Stating from the outset, we (the district) have presented our best possible offers choosing not to engage in the all too traditional form of back and forth negotiating, prolonging the process and leaving both sides in a state of uneasiness.” But to the union, negotiation is the process of presenting proposals back and forth between parties, eventually coming to an agreement. “There is no traditional vs. other types negotiations. Back and forth is negotiations. What this statement says is that the District never intended to bargain in good faith,” Stauffer said.
The next statement Stauffer criticized – prolonging the process and leaving both sides in a state of uneasiness – he said after 10 months after bargaining started with no end in sight, “I’ll leave you to judge whether that prolonged the process or not. Also, the last part of this sentence on ‘uneasiness’, the fact that you (The School Board) feel the need to have a police presence any time there’s a public meeting, tells me that perhaps you’re feeling a state of uneasiness. I don’t know what alternative reality the person or persons who wrote this update lives in, but clearly, the District’s bargaining strategy has been an abject failure.
“In any case, even though the update was unsigned, it was posted on the District website with District letterhead. Since you are the Trustees of the District, that means you own the update, it’s yours.
“The Superintendent has been here now for a little over a year. In what started with positive communication and hope has turned into anger and mistrust. And, we’ve had a 15 percent staff turnover in this year. If that’s the District’s goal, then you succeeded admirably. Regardless of what happens from this point on, it’s going to be hard to regain that trust. Again, you are the Trustees and you own it.
“There are many good things going on in our District: We have great kids. Everyone who teaches here knows that we have great staff (though missing a number of really good veteran teachers who decided to leave). There’s dual immersion, Farm to Fork, MESA, robotics, and on and on. I would hate to see that all go to waste.”
Timeline of the negotiation process:
Negotiations: Start date – Oct. 27, 2015
Mediation: Start date – May 20, 2016
Fact finding: May 20 – Aug. 30, 2016
Woodland Tomato Festival comes downtown on Aug. 13
Once again it’s the time of year when fresh tomatoes are center stage, sparking a new energy throughout Yolo County. Monster machines bounce through dusty fields heaping 25-ton capacity trailers with another harvest. Back roads bulge with semis rumbling from fields to factories. At local farmers markets beaming local growers display their fresh hand-picked yellow, orange, and red tomatoes, and invite you to sample their newest variety. Neighbors bang on your door and implore you to help consume their backyard bounty, as lunch and dinner tables offer healthy salads and fresh spaghetti and hot sauces. And home canners fill the house with enticing aromas as they stock up the pantry.
It’s no surprise, then that this same energy will be bringing people together for the 9th Annual Woodland Tomato Festival, one of the town’s most popular public celebrations. Mark your calendars for Saturday, Aug. 13, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Woodland Farmer’s Market invites you to the historic downtown to join in all the free family-fun activities on Main Street between First and Third streets.
The Farmer’s Market vendors will be selling their freshly-picked, ready-to-eat fruits, vegetables, baked goods, honey, olive oil, fresh herbs and flowers, and hand-made soaps and lotions. Along with the Farmer’s Market vendors, more than 60 additional booths will fill up the street – local artisans and crafts, a kids play area, healthcare and community information booths, local businesses, food vendors, and much more.
Not sure what kind of tomato you want to eat? From 9 a.m. to noon, head over to the Yolo County UCCE Master Gardener Tomato Tasting booth where you get to taste 15 heirloom and hybrid varieties and cast you votes for the best tasting tomatoes. Then, purchase your favorites from the Farmer’s Market vendors. This event will get your taste buds ready for the free Salsa Tasting which will start at about 9:30 a.m. Taste salsa made by local restaurants and help decide the Peoples’ Choice salsa for 2016.
The Top Tomato Chef competition starts at 10:30 a.m. Local chefs from Savory Café, Father Paddy’s, Guinevere’s, and the Nugget Market will create a three-course dinner prepared at their facility, and serve it to the judges at the Festival. Each course must have tomatoes as the main ingredient. The judges score each chef on presentation, taste, and creativity. Some of the dishes that our local chefs have created in the past have been amazing, and you never know if you will be one of the lucky ones to taste the dishes too!
Who will be the 2016 Top Tomato Chef? Savory Café will vie to keep the title they were awarded last year so come see how creative our local chefs can be.
Also don’t miss the live family entertainment. The No Divas will be kicking off the morning from 9 to 10:30 a.m., so get your dancing shoes on. These ladies will be rocking Main Street with their classic rock/pop songs from the ’60s and ’70s. Then we have the Kuk Sool Won martial arts demonstration team showing and teaching you some of their moves – if you are a willing participant. This expert team is good, so stay around to see this awesome show. Then at noon get ready for our very own Kiss N Tell band. They’re sure to get you back on your feet singing and dancing to classic tunes we all enjoy.
Finally, to complete your ultimate tomato immersion, purchase some fried green tomatoes, tomato gelato or tomato ice cream from our food vendors.
This is a fun family event, so bring the kids. There will be free face painting and a kids’ play area hosted by Rec2Go with fun art activities, a tomato toss, bounce house, and more.
Remember, this event is on a closed off Main Street and is free. Our Main Street area businesses and restaurants are ready to welcome you as you take in the festival, with shade and plenty of free parking. For more information contact Sonia@woodlandfarmersmarket.com or go to www.woodlandtomatofestival.com.