June 1, 2021
The School Board Work Session held today was absolutely stunning. (Watch it at THIS LINK https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s663yulU_VU).
District Attorney John Palmerini led the school board members through a PowerPoint presentation appearing to suggest that any MOU that the District signed with the Union prohibited the District leaders and the School Board from changing course should COVID-19 circumstances change. Palmerini should know that if circumstances change, the proper step would be to return to the bargaining table to negotiate rewriting or terminating the MOU.
It appeared that Palmerini was feeding the school board members the idea that the DISTRICT should unilaterally decide working conditions in the midst of a pandemic, so that it did not have to bargain with the Union!
School Board member Angie Gallo's questions suggested she was confused by the bargaining process and the District's legal obligation to bargain working conditions. The Union has a legal right to bargain health and safety issues under the law. Mr. Palmerini appears to have planted a seed that the District should not support another Health and Safety MOU because then it could not make hasty unilateral changes. The conversation suggested that OCCTA would not be reasonable in renegotiating an MOU if changes occurred!
UPDATE - School Board Member Quoted as Anti-Union and Anti-MOU By OCPS Parent
Active anti-masker Alicia Farrant (L) with white shirt/no mask (r) with glasses on head -was mask-less at numerous School Board Meetings openly defying the District's mask mandate.
It appears that some school board members bought the District's suggestion that they should exclude the Union and all of the teachers from the having a voice in the critical matter of protecting their own health and safety after a discussion at the June 1 school board meeting. A public Facebook post by Alicia Farrant, a member of the Mom's for Liberty group and a vocal anti-masker suggests that the District leaders (like those who gutted the OCPS COVID-19 Health and Safety Manual) may have convinced the school board members that the Union and MOUs are dangerous! (See her Facebook post below.)
Farrant details a conversation with school board member Linda Kobert. Even if Farrant presented some of her conversation with Linda Kobert incorrectly, certainly Kobert must have discussed the Union and the MOU with her. No mom just pulls the term "MOU" out of thin air!
Farrant said that Kobert stated she was "appalled by the MOU and teachers' union." She wrote Kobert said, "The reason they originally signed the MOU was because it was in the heart of the pandemic and there was a tone of uncertainty and no real info yet." Twice last year the District signed off on Health and Safety MOUs with the Union. The School Board met and approve the agreements.
Farrant rambled on about demands Kobert claimed the union supposedly made, (but absolutely did not) such as insisting everyone get "vaxed" and suggesting that they threatened to strike, which we never did and would never would suggest.
Farrant said Kobert assured her that she and the board were with the parents who wanted parental rights. Nice to know!
Even if the words of Linda Kobert were twisted by the author of the social media post, it is obvious this parent indeed had a phone conversation with her that included discussions on the Union and MOUs that both parties agreed to sign.
How sad that OCPS leaders and parents look at the Union and the teachers it represents as the enemy instead of viewing them as partners working together to ensure student success; working to ensure safe and healthy working and learning conditions.
How incredible that a school board aims to squash labor rights and misrepresent the law. OCCTA is obligated to advocate for every member of our bargaining union -especially to ensure safe and healthy working conditions in a pandemic. Sadly, it appears that the School Board members are buying into the District's culture of autocratic, control and exclusion and silencing of teachers' voice and in doing so trampling their rights to bargain a healthy and safe workplace.
UPDATE - DISTRICT REFUSES TO BARGAIN IN GOOD FAITH - SAYS SCHOOL BOARD WANTS TOTAL CONTROL OF COVID-19 PROCEDURES!
The health and safety counter offer (at THIS LINK) that the District presented to the Union contained little comment boxes that we have never seen on any proposal ever before. This serves as another indication that the District had no intention to bargain in good faith! No wonder they delayed the bargaining meeting dates until the very day teachers return to classes. OCCTA demanded to bargain on June 16 and sent a draft health and safety proposal on July 25th. Preusser promised to send a counter proposal before the scheduled August 2, 2021 meeting, but of course, did not as is always the case. Even though the Union gave the District many dates that the Union could meet to bargain, Preusser insisted that they were unavailable until August -unavailable to discuss health and safety until classes were set to resume. This is why so many teachers left last year. They did not feel safe working in a pandemic in OCPS schools.
At the bargaining table repeatedly, the District’s chief negotiator, James Preusser stated that the School Board did not want an enforceable agreement. In fact, the District’s proposal contained little boxes with snippy District comments on each page of their proposal. Comments like: “Need flexibility to respond to changes during the pandemic; limits school board authority to pivot as changes occur.” These boxes were an indication right from the starting gate that the District was not going to negotiate in good faith. Even the date they penned was December 30, 2021, only halfway through the school year.
Under what authority does a School Board have the power to limit bargaining rights, especially during a pandemic when teachers' health and very lives are at risk? The proper way to make changes to an MOU is to return to the table and bargain in good faith.
Other boxes with District comments were clearly untrue, such as, “Adopted and incorporated in other District protocols” when the proposals were not adopted or incorporated anywhere in the manual or elsewhere. That manual was created without bargaining. The Union's post-impasse brief states:
"The language relied on by the District does not clearly, or even remotely, waive OCCTA’s right to bargain healthful and safe working conditions for its employees. General reference to an Emergency Manual (that was created long before COVID-19 and that does not even reference infectious diseases or outbreaks, and clearly omits anything that would be applicable or useful to address this unprecedented pandemic) cannot possibly be considered a clear waiver of the Union’s strong right to bargain. (U-1); (U-30). The District cannot now claim that reference to a manual that existed years before there was even a pandemic somehow incorporates a completely different manual that did not exist at the time the CBA language was drafted. Similarly, reference to a joint safety committee that does not create enforceable agreements or provide any enforcement mechanisms does not waive the Union’s right to bargain health and safety. Indeed, Magistrate Holland already rejected both these District arguments:
The Union did not waive its strong right to bargain over working conditions. General references to infectious diseases or Health and Safety Committees in a CBA does not establish a waiver."
Below is a page of the District's proposal showing the comment boxes:
Another comment box stated: “Conflicts with Article VII.L.” This comment addressed the Union’s provision for Nurses and ESE to be provided gowns upon request, as they were last year. Article VII.L of the contract states: “Teachers shall be expected to dress in a manner which is professional and appropriate to their work assignments.” The Special Magistrate agreed with the Union that gowns should be provided for these members of our bargaining unit.
The District’s comment boxes stating, “Conflicts with effective classroom strategies” and ”Negatively impacts ability to effectively address student social/emotional needs” were also ignored by the Special Magistrate who recommended accepting those provisions also.
The actions of District leaders show that they care more about maintaining authority and control than they do about health and lives. The comment boxes show that District leaders care more about playing games with the Union and being confrontational than bargaining in good faith.