Controversy over a one-time bonus for Campbell high school teachers last year has led to a contract impasse this year.
Teachers at the six high schools in the district received a $5,000 one-time payment last year.
The Campbell High School Teachers Association wants that raise to be permanent, plus a permanent 4% increase for all teachers, approximately $8,700 per year.
The district has offered a permanent $5,000 raise plus an additional $500 one-time payment plus a $2,000 one-time retention stipend, a total increase of $7,500 increase.
Negotiators have declared contract talks at an impasse and have asked the Public Employees Review Board (PERB) to provide mediation in the hopes of coming to an agreement.
“The CUHSD Board is hopeful we can come to an agreement soon so we can get that extra money in the pockets of our teachers, but it is going to take both sides coming together in good faith,” board President Kalen Gallagher in a statement on the district’s website.
At a board meeting last week, “Ask me about my pay cut” pins were worn by approximately 50 teachers gathered in the meeting room to make their voices heard. The public comments were an impassioned plea to pay teachers what they were making last year and give them an additional raise to offset increased cost-of-living expenses.
Campbell teachers began the school year without the $5,000 added to last year’s salaries.
Nick Cortez, a bargaining chair for the teacher's union, said he was frustrated that the district would call the decrease in pay anything other than a pay cut.
“I mean, if you're getting paid one amount one year, and your pay goes down by $5,000, what else do you call that besides a pay cut?" Cortez said. "I don't know that you can call it anything else."
“These last two months, I had to make choices about hearing aids, physical devices, or, you know, or a couple of bills that are more discretionary," Tiffany Ylarregui, a teacher at Branham High School said. "I live in a home I cannot afford and it's not nice, it's a basic condo."
Surveys by the teachers' union found that 72 percent of teachers were considering leaving the district because of their frustrations with the board and lower pay than neighboring districts.
The starting salary for teachers is $59,537, lower than neighboring districts of similar size. The starting salary in the Los Gatos-Saratoga school district is $65,521; in Palo Alto Unified it's $71,484; at Santa Clara Unified it's $81,04 and in Mountain View-Los Altos, it's $88,066.
The Campbell district still sits above the statewide average for high school teachers and other school districts in less expensive parts of the county like Gilroy.
If a proposed parcel tax had been approved by voters, teachers would have received a $4,4000 to $8,000 increase to their salary. If it didn't, they would get a salary increase of at least $4,000.
Since the parcel tax, which was brought before voters two times in 2020, failed to get a super-majority vote, the two parties had to return to the negotiation table to agree on what that final year's salary would look like.
Since May, the two parties have gone back and forth and by September, the union felt as though negotiations were going nowhere, so they entered impasse. This means a third-party would act as a mediator so that a deal would be reached.
The union says the district has a $33 million reserve that could be used to pay for employee salaries. The union said this reserve has grown in recent years. In the 18/19 school year, the district had an excess of $18.3 million, the next year an additional $15.9 million and in the last school year a surplus of $23.8 million bringing the total to $48.6 million.
District Superintendent Robert Bravo said that reserves fluctuate every year like a sawtooth and last year the reserves jumped significantly because of COVID money from the state.
Projections provided to Bay City News showed that by the 2024-2025 school year, the district would run through its reserves fairly quickly and wouldn't be able to maintain the state-required reserve amount if the union's proposal was implemented.
A teacher at Prospect High School, Stephen Smith, who formerly served as the Vice President of the union asked the board, “Why is it that over the last few three years between three mediations and arbitrations combined, every time we've had an outside person come in here to talk about the differences that we had, when all has been said and done, they basically said, yeah, what (teachers) are asking for is reasonable do that.”
Other teachers were also frustrated last weekwith the district cutting training services for teachers, subscriptions to School Loop and other services while increasing the work required by teachers.
“I now have to attend a whole bunch of meetings that add about four days to our school year, but don't get paid for because they meetings are considered voluntary, even though we all are required to attend,” said Branham High School math teacher Donnetta Torrecillas.