Up for the count

Glendale News Press

GLENDALE — Teachers have had their school mailboxes full lately.

In them are the ballots and envelopes required for the vote Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to approve or reject the tentative agreement with the Glendale Unified School District and the Glendale Teachers Assn. And then there are the fliers at some campuses, made by a group of Crescenta Valley High School teachers, that encourage a "no" vote.

At stake is a three-year labor agreement that would take a bite out of the district's budget deficit, while forcing teachers to take 15 furlough days and make payments toward health-care plans.

"We believe and support free speech and open debate, but it should be made clear [the fliers are] not the Glendale Teachers Assn. leadership's position," said union President Tami Carlson. "When you talk about changing [health-care plans] and making a permanent payroll deduction, for our membership, that's a very big issue. It's not surprising there's so much debate about it because it's never happened before in this district."

While the votes are being counted Wednesday night, the Glendale Teachers Assn. has scheduled a candlelight vigil outside the home of Board of Education President Greg Krikorian, a move district officials said was counterproductive.

"It brings what is essentially a labor dispute and makes it personal to the president of the board and his wife and children," said John Garcia, the school district's incoming deputy superintendent. "It . . . takes it outside the context of a labor negotiations disagreement."

It was also avoidable, Carlson said.

"I think the candlelight vigil debate is one of an act of desperation on behalf of the teachers who have marched on the board . . . to no avail," she said. "We are just seeking a quiet, nonviolent, peaceful message of trying to bring attention to the irresponsibility of the board."

The fliers were posted in teacher lounges at several campuses. Contrary to claims made on the bulletins, there are a lot of unknown outcomes if the contract is defeated, Garcia said.

For instance, a flier says voting no would mean six furlough days for two years, and negotiations would resume to withdraw teacher pink slips.

The number of furlough days is open to negotiation, and there would be no guarantee that layoff notices would be nixed, Garcia said.

"This flier clearly distorts the facts using inappropriate and patently false comments to push members toward a 'no' vote," he said.

Approving the contract will also give district officials a clearer understanding of where they are financially, he said.

"It is an unknown variable that when it becomes known, it will allow us to begin to plan more effectively for the future," Garcia said.

"The better we understand where we are financially, the better opportunity we have to rescind the [layoff] notices."

Carlson said the Board of Education has the power to make the dispute obsolete.

"They can do it tomorrow, and then there would be no candlelight vigil," she said.

"There was a deaf ear turned to us time and time again."

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