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Denair Unified remains divided; January report may induce change
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As the contentious Denair Unified School District turns the corner into a new year, one thing remains the same: The Denair Unified Teachers Union and the District do not agree on the fundamental facts of the District’s fiscal crisis. 

While it is difficult to pinpoint one event or time that precipitated the ongoing thorny relationship between the union and the District, both DUTA and the District believe that they are giving their best to resolve the situation. DUSD has dwindled into a severe financial red zone leading to the intervention of the state agency Financial Crisis and Management Assistance Team and a June 30 deadline by the Stanislaus County of Education, which will not administer funds after that point. With debts topping $1 million and encroaching changes, there is a large discrepancy between what each party believes they need to sacrifice to move the District forward.

“We are willing to give what’s necessary to keep the District out of state receivership. To make everything transparent and clear, that is about 4 percent,” said DUTA President Barry Cole.

The District’s initial offer was more than twice that at 11.05 percent and still stands on the table as their best and last final offer.  Whether this is imposed or not will be determined after the fact-finding report is released in early January. Fact-finding is the third step in the negotiations process which produces an option for the district to implement based on a plan a panel composed of a representative from the union, a representative from the District, and a third party representative. 

“Once you exhaust the fact-finding, once the report is done, the Board can unilaterally impose the last best or unilaterally impose the report. They are in control, they own the District. That is what I had to tell the Board last April,” said Hanline.

Cole said that achieving progress through the fact-finding report is not ideal but neither is striking.

“I am very confident that the District will not be taken over by the state,” said Cole. “Regardless of what the report says there are still a lot of options that DUTA has. We’re prepared to do whatever is necessary to prevent unnecessary pay cuts to our checks. We’ll take the pay cut and we’ve offered more than what we know is necessary even by District numbers.”

District numbers have not been consistent according to Cole, who said the irregularity in information is reflective of Hanline’s leadership. At the Dec. 12 board meeting Cole declared a vote of no confidence by DUTA, as 86 percent of the teachers voted no confidence while the remaining 14 percent abstained from voting. Hanline acknowledged that the Board understands DUTA’s concern, which is why the Board is indicating that they will implement the fact-finding report.

 “I think they recognize why DUTA doesn’t trust the District’s numbers. I think with Doug and myself, this Board trusts the numbers, but they understand why they don’t,” said Hanline. “The Board and four of them I think, now said that they will impose the report. They said they’re going to trust the process. They’re going to trust that the panel will come up with a solution that will ensure that they will not be taken over by the state.”

If the Board does not implement the report, they can impose their last, best and final offer which includes an 11.05 percent cut to teacher’s salaries and the union is also able to strike. If the union does strike, the District has a plan set in place.

 “We’re going to run school,” said Hanline. “We’re going to bring in 70 subs. We’re developing a curriculum that is for the kids, the students. We’re going to do quality school.”