News

School unions agree to reopen negotiations on bonus

School board also to discuss term-limits proposal, class size policy

UPDATE: The school board unanimously voted on Tuesday, Oct. 24, to reopen negotiations with its unions on this provision.

Palo Alto Unified's unions have agreed, at the district's request, to reopen negotiations on a one-time bonus teachers and non-teaching staff are scheduled to receive at the end of the school year.

The district sent a letter to the Palo Alto Educators Association and Classified School Employees Association on Oct. 7 requesting they return to the table to bargain this provision in their contracts, interim Superintendent Karen Hendricks said Monday.

The contracts provide for the 1 percent bonus to double if actual property tax revenue received is greater than the amount used in the board-adopted budget by 1.5 percent or more — which early property tax estimates indicate will likely happen. Santa Clara County provided the district an estimate of 6.52 percent in September, compared to 3.73 percent in the district budget.

Hendricks said the district hopes to discuss with the unions the difference in property tax assumptions between the contracts and the adopted budget.

The district's letter came about a month after senior leadership realized that no one formally notified the unions by a contractual deadline this spring that the district planned to exercise its option to reopen negotiations, with the intent of canceling a 3 percent raise this year. The raise totals about $4.5 million.

The school board will hold a public hearing at its meeting Tuesday to allow community members to provide feedback on the proposed negotiations topic. Staff will also be asking the board to give the green light to reopen negotiations.

Hendricks said she is currently serving as the district's lead negotiator. She was hired this fall as assistant superintendent for human resources to replace Scott Bowers, who had negotiated on behalf of the district in that position, but was named interim superintendent after Superintendent Max McGee resigned in late September.

She said it's possible that Barron Park Elementary School Principal Anne Brown, who was recently appointed to serve in the human resources role on an interim basis, would take over negotiations, but it has yet to be discussed.

Teri Baldwin, president of the teachers union, declined to comment on the reopening, writing in an email: "We don't discuss negotiation items when we are in negotiations."

Meb Steiner, president of the classified employees union, did not respond to requests for comment.

In other business Tuesday, the school board will discuss a proposal from member Todd Collins to limit the number of terms trustees can serve.

There is currently no limit, but Palo Alto school board members typically serve one or two terms. Current member Melissa Baten Caswell is serving her third term; when it ends, she will have been on the board for more than a decade.

When former member Camille Townsend was re-elected in 2012, she became the first Palo Alto school trustee in more than 40 years to serve more than two terms. Baten Caswell became the second.

Collins is proposing the board approve a resolution requesting the county to place a measure on the November 2018 ballot that would limit board members to two consecutive terms of four years each, the same as Palo Alto city council members.

In a report he prepared for Tuesday's meeting, Collins argues that term limits for elected officials are "common and proven good governance practice" from the local to state level. The Palo Alto City Council, Santa Clara County Supervisor, state Assembly, Senate and governor have been subject to term limits since the 1990s, according to Collins.

They're less common in school districts, however, but "not unusual either," Collins wrote. Voters in several California districts recently approved ballot measures to impose term limits, and another district is set to vote in 2018.

Limits also create turnover on the board that allows for new people and "unrepresented groups" to participate as well as a "continuous refresh of energy, ideas, opinions, and skills," Collins wrote.

Under state Education Code, "the governing board of a school district may adopt or the residents of the school district may propose, by initiative, a proposal to limit or repeal a limit on the number of terms a member of the governing board of the school district may serve on the governing board of the school district," Collins cites in the report.

"Our role is not to enact term limits – it is to offer the voters the opportunity to decide," he wrote.

The board will also discuss on Tuesday a proposed class size policy, district results from the 2017 Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium test and next steps in a superintendent search process. The board is set to vote on district-wide goals for the year as well as designs for a renovation of Hoover Elementary School and new multipurpose rooms at El Carmelo, Escondido and Walter Hays elementary schools.

The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the district office, 25 Churchill Ave. View the full agenda here.

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Comments

28 people like this
Posted by Barron Park dad
a resident of Barron Park
on Oct 24, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Two-term limits are an excellent idea!

The District needs to solve this budget crisis quickly. I'm talking about the unintended 3% raise. I heard that PiE donations are way down this school year -- normally about $6 million raised annually -- because more than a few parents are fed up with the District carelessly spending money and making these easily avoidable mistakes.


8 people like this
Posted by Term Limits
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 24, 2017 at 12:42 pm

Term Limits is a registered user.

If the Board rejects putting term limits in the ballot, can citizens put it on the ballot themselves?


5 people like this
Posted by PTA has term limits
a resident of Midtown
on Oct 24, 2017 at 1:06 pm

There was a two-term limit for specific PTA Board positions when my kids were in school. People could be elected to a different role, but not the same one three years in a row.


1 person likes this
Posted by Thad
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Oct 24, 2017 at 5:53 pm

I am curious: Is the 3% unintentional raise on top of an annual cost-of-living adjustment?


Like this comment
Posted by Mom
a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 25, 2017 at 7:15 am

Good development to start.
I was waiting to see if anyone would start a campaign for the PiE donation targeted to teachers.


1 person likes this
Posted by Citizen Parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 25, 2017 at 1:23 pm

@Term limits
If the Board rejects putting term limits in the ballot, can citizens put it on the ballot themselves?"

Absolutely yes. Our City is what's called a charter city, which is governed by what amounts to a local constitution called the "city charter". Cities in CA have the right to create their school districts in their city's charters. Not all do, but ours does. That means we can make changes to the school district through charter amendments in a process similar to referendum or initiative. It's not quite the same, because a city council can adopt a qualified referendum without a public vote, but I believe a charter amendment, which term limits would be, can only be done through public vote.

The process is simple. You just have to create your proposal, get enough signatures (only a fraction of those who voted in the last election), and bring your proposal to the city clerk to have the signatures validated and the city council to put it on the ballot. You can get the directions from the city code.

You have to start by reading what's in the city charter already. Do an internet search for the text of the Palo Alto Citt Charter. It is very short and simple related to the school district. The city charter is what says we follow the state ed code. Subject to various federal and state laws, such as that we couldn't suddenly deny the state constitutional right to an education, we can even change the ed code we follow. The board and the terms and position of superintendent are created in the city charter, and this is what is changed. So, again, yes. You have a citizen's right to change it.

I do wish you would consider this instead, though. Please consider adding an ombudsman' position to our district. The person should be paid for by the district but work in city hall and answer to the public and the mayor's office only. It should work for families to solve problems. If families had real recourse early on, things would never get so bad before they get dealt with. Other districts have such positions, and some have school districts that have to answer to the city. Balance of power is an important principal in well functioning democratic systems. (Which is distinct from gridlock which is what happens when one side tips things too far in their direction and the other is just trying to keep things from ending in permanent imbalance, i.e. destroyed democracy.). We could really use some kind of balancing in our school system so that families are better served and represented.

I do support the term limits but fear it is far too little.

More importantly, please realize that yes, you have the power to change our school district through the Palo Alto city charter, subject to preemptive laws at the state level and federal level, and the will of the voters. Please start by reading the City Charyer text. The part dealing with the school district is short and simple, and can be changed.


Like this comment
Posted by Citizen parent
a resident of Gunn High School
on Oct 25, 2017 at 1:36 pm

Web Link
Here is a link


Here is the entire text establishing our school district in the city charter. It can be amended


Article VIII-A. Board of Education
(This Article added by Stats. 1951, Ch. 40, 3-14-51)
Sec. 1. Members - Number - Residency - Compensation.
The board of education of the Palo Alto Unified School District shall consist of five members who are residents of the territory of the unified school district, or any additions thereto. They shall serve without compensation.

Sec. 2. Effect of amendment - Term.
(a) The members of the board of education holding office when this amendment takes effect shall continue in office until their respective terms of office shall expire and until their successors are elected and qualified.
(b) Time of Election. The election and recall of members of the board of education shall be held at the times and in the manner provided by the Education Code of the State of California.
(Amended by amendment filed with the city clerk July 17,1978)
(c) Term of Office. The term of office of the members of the board of education, shall be four years from and after the first day of the month succeeding their election and until their successors are elected and qualified. The term of office of the members of the board of education which commenced July 1, 1975, shall expire in 1979. The term of office of the member of the board of education which commenced April 1, 1977, shall expire in 1981. The term of office of the member of the board of education which commenced April 1, 1978, shall expire in 1983.
(Amended by amendments filed with the Secretary of State, July 1, 1976; July 17, 1978; and May 30, 1979)
(d) Vacancies. Vacancies on the board of education shall be filled by appointment by the board and such appointee shall hold office until the next regular election of members of the board and until their successors are elected and qualified. At said next regular election succeeding any vacancy, a member shall be elected to serve for the unexpired term and until his successor is elected and qualified.
(Amended by Stats. 1969, Ch. 223, 6-26-69)

Sec. 3. Powers and duties.
The powers and duties of the board of education shall be those prescribed by the Constitution, Education Code, and general laws of the state of California, as they may now exist or may hereafter be amended.

Sec. 4. Superintendent of schools - Appointment.
The board of education shall appoint a superintendent of schools who shall be the chief executive officer of the board and shall enforce all rules and regulations of the board and the Education Code of the state. The superintendent shall also act as ex officio secretary and clerk of the board.
(Amended by amendment filed with the Secretary of State, January 21, 1992)

Do you see the amendments which have been done over the years?


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