San Jose Unified employees protest staff changes

Clutching signs proclaiming a lack of respect, dozens of San Jose Unified employees chanted, marched and protested the district’s decision to eliminate or reclassify 37 positions.

Their chants echoed down Lenzen Avenue, drawing supportive honks from cars passing by as a helicopter whirled overhead.

The protest was spurred by upcoming staff cuts and reassignments that the union believes is a workaround of a preexisting agreement between district employees and the board. The CSEA represents classified school employees, which includes paraeducators (teacher’s aides), food services and clerical staff.

According to a cease-and-desist letter acquired by San José Spotlight, CSEA and the District began negotiations on an updated collective bargaining agreement in Jan. 2018, with negotiations continuing all year.

By November, the CSEA and district administrators had come to an agreement: All CSEA employees would receive a 3 percent raise, under the condition of layoffs to pay for it. A specific number was not specified, but district officials said the staffing cuts would come mainly through attrition and eliminating vacant positions.

CSEA members ratified the tentative agreement on Dec. 6, 2018. The board approved it in January.

But CSEA officials cried foul when a webinar released to district employees in March included not only the tentatively-agreed upon layoffs but a consolidation of CSEA classifications. CSEA had previously rejected plans to reclassify or consolidate positions during negotiations last year.

Following the webinar and the board’s resolution to lay off and reassign classified staff at its March 28 meeting, CSEA believes that the district is circumventing the bargaining process.

“We did agree that if there were to be layoffs, we would both honor our already existing (agreement) which addresses layoffs,” Stacy Trujillo, senior labor representative for the local CSEA chapter, told San José Spotlight at the protest. “But what they are doing here is that they eliminated 37 classifications. Essentially people are being told that the work isn’t going away, you’re just getting a new position.”

Mary Jennison, an attendance improvement clerk at Lincoln High School, said she’s retiring rather than taking another classified staff member’s position. Her position is one of the 37 that the district resolved to reduce or eliminate.

Many classified staff make so little that their children qualify for free or reduced school lunches, she said. According to Transparent California, Jennison’s total pay was $20,620 in 2017.

However, she laid the blame on a top-heavy district administration. The most recent publicly available data shows that Superintendent Nancy Albarrán’s total 2017 pay was $265,349, Deputy Superintendent Stephen McMahon earned $224,633, former Associate Superintendent Jackie Zeller made $187,394, and Associate Superintendent John Bejarano made $162,299.04.

During the meeting Thursday, Bejarano noted that the agreement said “any and all necessary impacts and effects of a corresponding reduction in force have been settled and there shall be no further negotiations.”

According to his report, the district employs about 820 CSEA members. Around 700 were not impacted.

Three employees resigned from the district and three went on the 39-month rehire list. Of the 114 reemployments, 49 were notified of possible location changes.

Sixteen layoffs were initially planned. Two of those were offered reemployment and one retired.

“We do have vacant positions right now that we will be posting internally and reaching out to these employees who have been laid off to be sure that they have the first opportunity for any of the vacant positions that we have available,” Bejarano said.

Contact Elizabeth Barcelos at ebarcelossj@gmail.com or follow @ebarcelossj on Twitter.

 

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