Union, district back to the table

GLENDALE — Less than a month after the Glendale Unified School District and its teachers union ratified a labor agreement, both sides will begin the bargaining process as soon as this week, officials said.

Their recent agreement included provisions that, if the state budget boosted revenue, both sides would return to the negotiating table and reevaluate the employee concessions that took 18 months of contentious battling to reach.

With the state budget including better-than-expected numbers, Glendale Teachers Assn. representatives will likely unveil their negotiable items next week, union President Tami Carlson said.

"[The contract] could be modified or changed due to the increased funding," she said.

The current agreement saves the district $12.8 million over its three-year lifespan through unpaid furlough days for all employees and increased contributions toward medical benefits for some teachers, custodians, board members and administrators.

Agreeing to the contract was a bitter, and sometimes personal ordeal, which included protests, demonstrations and a candlelight vigil outside the north Glendale home of school board President Greg Krikorian.

Both sides and the community learned valuable lessons, and things are looking up despite an uncertain financial future, said Elizabeth Manasserian, president of the Parent Teacher Assn. Council.

"The issue is up in Sacramento, and the way things have been happening, [the budget has] always been a moving target," she said. "Because of that, I guess it behooves Glendale Unified or Glendale Teachers Assn. to obviously look at what is going to be the long term, or provide the longest sustainability for our schools."

Supt. Dick Sheehan cited an impartial fact-finding report authored by an Orange County school board member who determined Glendale Unified had an inability to afford rising employee salary and benefit costs because of multiple cuts to public education.

"People understand the district was not bluffing and the fact finder completely found on behalf of the district's inability to pay, and that's pretty scary, when you use [that] term," Sheehan said.

But Carlson cited a budget adjustment, scheduled for board approval Tuesday, that would add federal stimulus dollars to the district's ongoing budget, bringing its reserves to more than $60 million, and well above the legal minimum.

She said those calculations should have been made before the contract was ratified last month, and those dollars spent before the school year began.

"That completely changes the financial status," she said. "We took these maybe large concessions when the district had not put the federal stimulus funds into their budget. Why didn't they account for this money in their budget last year?"

Sheehan downplayed the budget adjustment, defending the tweak as necessary because federal dollars were released months after the board adopted its budget in June, as required by law.

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