Turlock teachers have rejected the tentative agreement with the Turlock Unified School District this week, attributing a toxic work environment and bullying to their decision.
With an 82 percent “no” vote, 315 days of bargaining came to an end after “stalling and intransigence” from TUSD, the Turlock Teachers Association said in a released statement. The rejected TA included a 2 percent salary increase, but the pay wasn’t the main reason many teachers voted no, TTA President Christine Rowell told the Journal.
“Our negotiating team did their best…they just went up against a sentiment of the District not being interested in some of the corrective reforms we were suggesting,” she said. “The tone of our negotiations was respectful so we appreciate that; it’s just that we couldn’t understand why so many of the items that wouldn’t have cost the District anything but show that they appreciated teachers weren’t considered.
“That was frustrating.”
Teachers feel the time they’re already spending isn’t appreciated or valued, and then there are additional expectations on top of that.TTA President Christine Rowell
Rowell claims that teachers are fleeing the District for better pay and because of bullying by administrators, including increased pressure for teachers to go well beyond the work hours that they are compensated for. She added that the District’s failure to put a cap on classroom sizes and provide adequate support for both new hires and Special Education is taking a toll on teachers.
“Special Education teachers are leaving because they are overwhelmed with the increased numbers of students to care for and provide services for. They stay a year maybe two – it’s one of the highest turnover rates in the County,” Rowell said.
At an April 10 TUSD Board of Trustees meeting, Rowell told the Board that a TTA poll conducted with Turlock educators revealed the average teacher spends almost 16 unpaid hours a week on not only planning and preparation, but also on other social committees and administration-provided training. In total, she said, Turlock teachers “donate” more than $210,000 of unpaid labor to the District every week.
“Teachers feel the time they’re already spending isn’t appreciated or valued, and then there are additional expectations on top of that,” Rowell said.
The pressure put on teachers by administrators to participate in extra training and seminars is just one example of bullying within the District, Rowell added, adding that Turlock instructors have also asked that seniority not be a deciding factor in assignment relocation.
“There have been instances where teachers are appearing to be randomly moved around, and when they are moved they’re given one or two days to do so,” Rowell said. “They’re moving teachers around willy-nilly.”
The comments are a stark contrast to the TTA’s attitude following negotiations in 2016, when then-President Julie Shipman said that for the first time, “the District has shown us in several ways that they value our time and our need to manage our time as professionals.”
The positive workplace at the time was attributed to then-Interim Superintendent Dana Salles Trevethan, but two years later, the Superintendent expressed shock in response to the TTA’s allegations.
“I would never anticipate such a statement be made about TUSD,” Trevethan said. “Our District is known for a positive and collaborative culture that keeps students, staff, and safety at the forefront. Our above-average teacher retention rate and comparable compensation attracts and retains highly skilled staff. Throughout our region and state, special education continues to be a challenge with the shortage of qualified teachers and TUSD has encountered similar obstacles. Review and receipt of 2,395 survey responses through our annual LCAP process demonstrates our value for input and regard for ongoing collective work. I encourage our TUSD stakeholders and community to review our Local Control Accountability Plan for evidence on our focus of students, staff, and safety.”
TUSD’s LCAP can be viewed at http://www.turlock.k12.ca.us/lcap.
In a survey amongst TTA teachers following the rejection of the TA, Rowell revealed that many said the money was the reason for their vote. Other reasons included requests to fix TTA concerns that went unanswered, Rowell said.
“Our students and community deserve better,” she said. “Our teachers deserve better.”