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Things get a tad heated in negotiations between RUSD & teachers

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POSTED April 19, 2017 1:21 a.m.

Nothing heats up the vernacular as much as salary negotiations, or more precisely , the public posturing away from the table.
 And given that it’s heading into the stretch for putting together school budgets where close to 90 percent of every general fund dollar spent goes to salaries and benefits, the temperature is rising.
That means you’ll run into a lot of smoke but it doesn’t mean there is necessarily a fire.
Such is the case in the Ripon Unified School District where on Tuesday the Ripon Unified District Teachers Association issued a media advisory they also posted on their Facebook account and took down at one point threatening to take legal action saying they have filed a “cease and desist order” against District Superintendent Ziggy Robeson.
The teacher union’s centers around their contention Robeson was meeting with students to discuss salary issues relating to the “current bargaining crisis.”
There is some truth to the “charge”. Robeson did meet with students leaders from the eighth grades of the district elementary campuses and Ripon High about two months ago as she does periodically throughout the year. The meetings are designed to hear student input and concerns about school offerings and rules as well as to answer questions they may have.
It essentially is a way of increasing communication with students in a bid to enhance the education of Ripon Unified students. The meeting nearly two months ago came on the heels of a school board meeting where teachers pressed the school board on the need to spend more money on  salaries.
Students peppered Robeson at their meeting that fell after the board meeting about budget issues, how the district could get more money, and such.
Robeson answered their questions and even explained how Ripon Unified demographics hurt them when it came to the state and federal government doling out money beyond basic average daily attendance funding. Manteca Unified, as an example, gets a large cut on the funding pie as they have around 60 percent of their 23,700 students that qualify for free and reduced lunches. Somewhat wealthier areas such as Ripon  have a lower level of low-income families meaning they miss out on additional funding.
District negotiations were never discussed unless explaining the funding constraints the district has on answering students’ questions about money is considered a negotiable item.
The release from the RUDTA indicates teachers are considering taking a “no confidence’ vote in Robeson for essentially answering student questions that they asked about the budget. For doing that they contend the superintendent is somehow using students as “pawns” in the negotiations process.
Keep in mind this was nearly two months ago and the RUDTA is just now getting wind of it. Rest assured that it would have been tough if the scenario advanced by the teachers’ association had gone down to keep it quiet for seven days let alone seven weeks.
The timing of the filing of the cease and desist order comes as both sides are waiting on the outcome of a fact finding hearing that took April 10 after the district and the RUDTA reached an impasse in negotiations.
There is little doubt that Ripon Unified delivers for students. And the reason they do is because of quality and hardworking teachers supported by a school board that makes sure the district is on sound financial footing.
The negotiation process can be frustrating for both sides — not to mention taxpayers. Sometimes in the heat of the moment people look for things to make a point.
The RUDTA is doing just that.
However given the context it should be treated for what it is — part of their negotiation strategy.
At the end of the day people should resist reading too much into it and not let it dilute their respect for the teachers, the superintendent or the school board.

To contact Dennis Wyatt, email dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com

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