The Berkeley Board of Education approved a two-year contract between the Berkeley Unified School District and the Berkeley Federation of Teachers at the board’s June 24 meeting.
The 2005–2008 agreement expired on June 30, 2008, leaving the teachers’ union without a new contract for almost a year.
After months of negotiations, the Berkeley Federation of Teachers (BFT) reached a tentative deal with the school district May 13, that gave teachers a 1 percent pay increase for the current academic year, in spite of state cuts to the school district budget, but left them without any raise for 2009–10. The current contract will go into effect July 1 and end June 30, 2010. Union representatives are scheduled to negotiate a “successor agreement” for 2010–11 in March of next year.
Both parties came to an agreement in mid-June that seeks to maintain the current small-class sizes, upgrade maternity leaves for teachers, support National Board Certification, and provide professional development for substitute teachers and preschool parent-teacher conferences.
BFT President Cathy Campbell told the board at the meeting that the contract demonstrated an improvement in labor relations between the union and the district. Unlike previous negotiations, this one did not require help from a state mediator.
“The agreement represents tremendous hard work by all involved and should be celebrated for its successes in these difficult times,” Campbell said.
Berkeley Unified Superintendent Bill Huyett called the agreement “a win-win situation.”
“We had some differences, but in the end it benefits both the teachers and the school district,” he said. “It’s a collaboration that benefits everybody, and I know I speak for the School Board as well.”
Campbell outlined Berkeley Unified’s efforts to staff critical psychologist positions at the Berkeley public schools by raising their salaries to a competitive level and providing more time for parent-teacher preschool conferences.
She lauded the district’s move to update the union’s Equal Opportunity policy, which she said affirmed a common belief in nondiscrimination based on sexual orientation.
“This agreement shows clearly the truth that all students in Berkeley deserve an excellent education, which means having excellent teachers, which means having excellent working conditions for our teachers,” Campbell said. “To separate the working conditions of our teachers from a ‘students first’ perspective is an oxymoron. The working conditions of teachers are the learning conditions of students.”
Thus, she said, the negotiations included a lot of discussion about how various changes in the school district could affect students and their families and the district’s ability to achieve the goals of the 2020 Vision, a citywide plan to eliminate the achievement gap by the year 2020.
Campbell said the agreement illustrated significant accomplishments in professional development for teachers, especially substitutes, by increasing its intensity and establishing weekly professional development time at Berkeley High.
Founded in 1950, the Berkeley Federation of Teachers is made up of 800 teachers from K–12, the Berkeley Adult School and Child Development, counselors, substitutes, school psychologists, adaptive PE teachers, librarians and speech pathologists serving Berkeley public school students.
For more information on the Berkeley Federation of Teachers and to read the tentative agreement, see www.berkeleyfederationofteachers.org.