Officially, no one from the Berkeley Unified School District or the Berkeley Federation of Teachers cannot discuss “all matters” surrounding the current state of mediation between the two sides.
But that doesn’t mean they’re not delivering any messages.
During Wednesday’s special meeting of the school board, both sides had an opportunity to make brief comments on the blackout imposed Tuesday by the state mediator. Board President Joaquin Rivera was the first to speak. He told the small crowd in the room – and those watching or listening at home – that he was unable to deliver on his goal to provide more detailed information on the offers being put forward by both sides.
“I am still of that opinion, because I feel very strongly that without knowledge of where we are, the public cannot really judge us and really talk about our commitment to making sure that teachers are our No. 1 prior And in effect, he told the public that he disagreed with the blackout. He said that he knows the rules, and “sometimes I don’t agree with the rules and would like to figure out ways around them.” But Rivera said that because the mediator has declared a blackout, “I must do what he says.”
BFT President Barry Fike, who noted that the board agenda didn’t include time specifically for any union or advisory committee to speak, was given the opportunity to address the board and the public. Unlike the passion and emotion shown in recent meetings, Fike was remarkably calm and collected Wednesday night.
“I totally concur and agree with President Rivera’s comments tonight in terms of this blackout, called for by the mediator,” Fike said in his opening.
He went on to read a letter that was being distributed to all teachers in regards to the blackout. The district distributed a message Wednesday to all district employees and board members instructing them not to speak about anything happening in negotiations for however long the blackout is in effect. Right now, the directive stands until next week, when the two sides hold their next mediation session. That blackout will be re-evaluated at that time.
But, in an attempt to provide its own interpretation on the blackout, the BFT produced its own letter on Thursday, passing along the same direction for teachers to abide by the directive. It also seemed to speak to an issue that may have initiated the blackout.
“Reports indicate that during the several days leading up to (Tuesday’s) negotiation session, leaks and/or a spreading of misinformation on current BUSD and BFT proposals beginning to occur at school sites and elsewhere,” Fike read from the letter. “The state mediator has indicated that a further spreading of false rumors and speculation between now and our next scheduled negotiation session may likely inhibit the process rather than help it.”
The entire blackout marks a shift from comments made by the BUSD and BFT last week. Rivera said at last week’s meeting that he welcomed the opportunity to release more information to the public, and Fike said the union has been open to such an opportunity.