Del Mar Union School District and Teachers Association reach budget agreement

By Karen Billing

An agreement has been reached between the Del Mar Union School District and the Del Mar California Teachers Association (DMCTA), resulting in $1 million in budget solutions. The budget solutions teachers agreed to were increasing class sizes from 20:1 to 22:1 in grades kindergarten through third; a corresponding reduction in Extended Studies Curriculum; no more oversize class stipends; no more upper grade compensatory days; and reduced out-of-contract pay for shared contracts.

The one-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) was passed by the teachers last week and the board voted 5-0 to accept the MOU at its April 25 meeting.

President Doug Rafner said he was shocked because he’d heard so much about the preference for the proposed furloughs as a budget solution over class size increases in discussions prior to the April 25 meeting, but was happy that both sides were able to come to a resolution, which he said is no easy feat.

Trustee Scott Kholos said he was a little disappointed in the outcome but he had pride that smart, thoughtful people were able to sit around a table and come to some agreement about what they feel is best for the district.

“It isn’t a perfect solution but it is what happens when you’re negotiating between two sides. Is it exactly what both sides wanted? I think both would say ‘no.’ It’s kind of a messy process and you come up with the best solution possible,” said Tim Asfazadour, assistant superintendent of human resources. “It’s a tough process but we aren’t like Ramona whose teachers are looking at going on strike…It’s not the best solution but we didn’t get to an impasse because we continued to negotiate in good faith.”

The MOU is the result of two years worth of negotiations.

“It has been a very purposeful deliberation process and no decision was taken lightly. There was a lot of back and forth at the bargaining table,” said District Superintendent Holly McClurg.

McClurg said all parties worked together as the district faced a very different reality of needing to find at least $2 million in budget cuts to avoid deficit spending and keep a healthy reserve, wanting to come as close to $2.5 million as possible.

In March, the district approved $1,596,130 in cuts and the DMCTA agreement includes the second part of those budget solutions, a savings of approximately $1,011,000.

Some parents in attendance expressed frustration that the DMCTA did not accept five furlough days as an option, a savings of $682,500. Due to those furloughs not being accepted for certificated teachers, the district will not be able to do furloughs for classified and management staff and will have to find another place to trim the approved savings of $202,000. Parents also did not like that class sizes would increase.

“The MOU to me is a disappointment,” said parent Suzanne Hall. “Not only does it effectively roll back cuts that the district has already committed to but it also removes teachers from the teaching pool that we’ve already invested time and money in.”

Hall said it strikes at the youngest students first with increased class sizes when she said they are the age level that benefits most by keeping classes small

“I feel very strongly that this is the wrong first cut for our district,” Hall said, noting she preferred the furlough day alternative.

Parent Jen Charat said when the process began, the district stressed that its goals were to keep cuts away from the classroom, keep them temporary and to spread the impact across the district.

“I’m worried that the MOU contradicts all those stated goals,” Charat said. “It sends the wrong message, especially when the community has said it preferred furloughs to class size increases.”

Charat said the community is still trying to regain faith in the district after a “rocky” last few years.

“Balancing the budget on the backs of kindergartners is a step back,” Charat said. “I fear it will change the fabric of our district…I fear it is not necessary.”

Trustee Kristin Gibson said she appreciated the parents being in attendance and sharing their views. She noted that at the town hall meeting, 45 percent stated that class size increases were not the preferred cut.

“The MOU is not completely aligned with what the community told us but it is part of a process and the first step in a direction we need to go. If the bond had passed we wouldn’t be in this situation,” Gibson said, lamenting that the difference in Prop CC passing was just 130 votes.

McClurg said furlough days were thoroughly discussed, as were all options. She said that even with 22:1, the district remains at the low end of class sizes in the area. McClurg said there are many variables associated with students’ success and she believes they can still provide high quality education even in classes of 22 students or more; some in the district are already at that level.

“If I didn’t think we could continue to provide top quality education with this decision, I would be making that statement to you,” McClurg told the board. “I don’t think there will be an impact.”

The MOU also includes no change in salary schedule with the exception of full funding for step and column increases for eligible teachers; no increase in benefits; and modifications to contract language relative to the site-based decision making and grievance articles.

The MOU’s agreement for an ESC reduction will result in one full-time equivalency position loss that the district provides. As of last week, the Del Mar Schools Education Foundation had raised a little over $1 million with a week left in its campaign (with a $2 million fundraising goal). At that level of fundraising, it would mean the loss of four ESC full-time equivalency positions from the current year level.