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Glendale teachers, Glendale Unified contract negotiations head into fall

Taline Arsenian
Taline Arsenian, Glendale Teachers Assn. president, is trying to secure a salary increase through contract negotiations for her roughly 1,250 members.
(Photo by James Carbone)

There was a time when the Glendale Unified School District and Glendale Teachers Assn. were well ahead of the curve, regionally, in terms of contact negotiations.

They adopted a 2017-20 successor agreement in April 2018 that guaranteed the GTA’s roughly 1,250 members a 1.5% retroactive salary increase for the 2016-17 school year, along with a 1.5% raise for the 2017-18 school year.

Two freeways away, Burbank Teachers Assn. members were protesting in the streets as negotiations with their board stalled, while the seeds for an eventual 30,000-member United Teachers of Los Angeles strike, which took place in January 2019, were germinating.

Since last summer, fortunes have changed as Los Angeles and Burbank hammered out deals, including Burbank teachers accepting a 1% raise for the 2018-19 school year in June. Concurrently, Glendale’s negotiations have fizzled.

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GTA President Taline Arsenian said her bargaining team is still waiting to hear a “serious” response from the district after the union proposed a 3.2% pay increase this spring. The first negotiating meeting of the fall is expected to take place in September.

“I would say the association has put forth an affordable wage request and the district has not agreed to our proposals,” Arsenian said.

While a change in leadership and a school year loaded with big distractions hurt the prospects of a deal, Arsenian still believes a compromise isn’t far away.

“We didn’t complete negotiations last year because we didn’t have a superintendent, or we had an interim superintendent, so that may have stalled things,” she said.

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Last school year was tumultuous for Glendale Unified, which cut millions to balance its budget, is dealing with declining enrollment, is fighting to keep a portion of its territory from breaking off and had a property proposal transfer denied by its own city council.

“We can acknowledge that a lot was going on last year and it was a very busy school year,” Arsenian said. “I’m not saying the district didn’t prioritize negotiations, but negotiations didn’t go as quickly as you would want it.”

Arguably the biggest change last school year took place Jan. 29 when the board sacked three-year superintendent Winfred B. Roberson Jr., via a 3-2 vote.

Roberson’s position wasn’t officially replaced until 34-year Los Angeles Unified veteran Vivian Ekchian took over July 1.

Ekchian, once Los Angeles Unified’s chief labor negotiator, does not believe discussions have been lagging.

“It is not unusual for a school district negotiation period to last into the summer, and I do not believe this has anything to do with the change in leadership,” Ekchian said in an emailed statement.

“We are in negotiations with the Glendale Teachers Association for 2018-19,” Ekchian added.

Both sides deny a deterioration of relations.

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“I look forward to continuing the cordial relationship we have with GTA and our other associations,” Ekchian said. “It is our joint interest to come together and bring resolution to all pending negotiation topics.”

The sides haven’t always worked together, though.

Burbank Unified Supt. Matt Hill joined with BTA president Diana Abasta and Burbank Unified board of education member Steve Frintner to advocate together in Sacramento, all dressed in red, at the Full and Fair Funding March on May 22.

By contrast, the cardinal-clad Arsenian joined Burbank’s group as she said no high-level district administrator or board member joined her at the state’s capitol.

“The Glendale Teachers Assn. will welcome any cooperation from our admin team or our school board members; we consider them our colleagues and part of the GUSD team,” Arsenian said.

“I don’t believe there’s any animosity there and I look forward to a very collaborative relationship with Dr. Ekchian or any administrators,” Arsenian said. “Our doors are always open.”

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