Pink slips likely to hold

Glendale News Press

GLENDALE — The decision by Glendale Teachers Assn. officials to cancel a third round of negotiations with the school district in favor of a fact-finding process will break a June 30 deadline for layoffs.

With the new process not expected to start until mid-July at the earliest, most if not all of the 77 teachers holding pink slips will likely be laid off, because Glendale Unified officials have to set their staffing levels and adopt a budget at the end of this month.

And while administrators say they could still hire teachers back for next school year, the impact of months of negotiations with little headway is starting to hit home for some teachers with pink slips.

There are two camps of teachers, said Kim Hughes, who is one of the 77 teachers who have pink slips. Safe teachers are detached and anxious about larger classes and forced changes next year, while the 76 others like her are growing more desperate, she said.

"Most of them are very sad to see us go, but everyone is focused on next year, and . . . you can't blame them, they are trying to find some stability in a very unstable system," she said in an e-mail. "I started applying for jobs when I first got my notice, but most have not. They were hoping things would get better or that the public wouldn't let the class sizes grow.

"Now they are in a panic."

Fact finding is the last stage of negotiations where an independent or mutually agreed upon fact finder reviews both sides data, arguments and assumptions in the process.

There's one day of hearings where each side makes a presentation. The fact finder then writes an advisory report within 30 days with his or her recommendations.

The report can be a road map for further negotiations, or the district can impose the last offer it made earlier. At that point, the union can accept it or strike, incoming Supt. Dick Sheehan said.

Moving into negotiations with a new voice at the table could remove the distance between both sides, union President Tami Carlson said.

"We don't want to waste any more time with political ploys; we want to get straight to the facts and get it done," she said. "The quickest way to do that is go to fact finding. Let's just get to the facts at fact finding so we can get our teachers back and keep our class sizes small."

Both sides signed a tentative agreement on April 16, but teachers rejected it more than a month later by more than 170 votes.

"We are committed to bringing back all teachers, provided we get the cost containment in health care and the financial solvency for three years, which will result in smaller classes," Sheehan said.

State law requires school districts to maintain balanced budgets every year for three consecutive years. District officials project a $21.8-million deficit in 2012-13, even with 30-to-1 primary-grade class sizes, teacher layoffs, summer school fees and other cuts, Chief Financial Officer Eva Lueck said.

The real money saver will be concessions for employee contributions to health-care benefits, district officials say.

In July 2007, both sides struck a deal after 37 hours of fact finding. Both sides have been trying to negotiate a successor agreement since August 2009.

"If we were going to go into fact-finding mode, it was my hope we would've done it a long time ago and not close the door on opportunities to bring these teachers back," Board of Education President Greg Krikorian said. "Delays only hurt teachers."

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