At a special Shoreline Unified School District board meeting last week, trustees unanimously approved a three-year labor contract between the district and its classified staff, but not without testy exchanges and continued discontent over late payments.
Staff members at the Sept. 5 meeting expressed frustration with delays in retroactive pay raises and their new health benefits, echoing similar concerns voiced by teachers throughout the year. The labor agreement signed in June gives staff a yearly 3 percent raise; instead of providing health insurance, however, the district will contribute to Kaiser health savings accounts.
The new health plans were supposed to be effective Oct. 1 but were delayed after the district failed to prepare the required public disclosure document in time. Now, employees are waiting for a Kaiser representative to come speak with them about their individual plans before they enroll. Depending on when the representative comes, the month-long enrollment period could come as early as October or as late as December, superintendent Bob Raines said.
Erica Beltran, a secretary at Tomales Elementary, said staff at her school want a specific timeline. “I get the questions, ‘Hey, when are we going to see the Kaiser person?’ and I say ‘Soon, soon, soon,’” she said. “So, I’m getting to the point where they don’t believe me anymore.”
The district’s new director of fiscal services, Logan Martin, said that although he couldn’t speak to the insurance changes, this year’s 3 percent raise and retroactive payments for prior raises would be reflected on paychecks shortly. “I feel very comfortable saying it will be less than three months—much less than three months,” he said.
With the raises guaranteed, the discussion centered on when the health plans would take effect.
C.S.E.A. vice president and union steward Laurie Schmitt, a special education paraeducator at Bodega Bay School, said that by keeping staff on plans that require a deductible for longer, the district was exposing them to additional out-of-pocket expenses they would not have faced had the switch been made in a timely manner.
“I apologize for the time it’s taken to roll this out,” Mr. Raines responded. “This is where we are, and I would like the open enrollment period to happen as quickly as possible so folks can move along.”
Ms. Schmitt countered: “You make arrangements and life decisions based on promises from the district. We should’ve had that Kaiser person in already.”
The room got argumentative. “Well, should’ve, would’ve, could’ve,” board president Jill Manning-Sartori said. “This is where we are today.” She gave two options—approve or table the labor contract.
Linda Borello, president of Shoreline’s chapter of the California School Employees Association, raised her complaint from the previous meeting about board members not returning her emails, but Ms. Manning-Sartori was not interested in rehashing the past.
“I think Bob is hearing you loud and clear, that you want to have this done quickly with sufficient information, and I think that will happen.”
Teacher Matt Nagle interjected that he doesn’t see any trust between the district’s employees and its governance. “We’ve been hearing Bob loud and clear for over three years,” he said. “But every month, we get the same excuses, you get angry—every month—and he gives us a promise.”