Disagreements usually hashed out behind closed doors emerged front and center Wednesday at a York City School District meeting when members of the teachers union expressed frustration with the ongoing contract negotiation.
"What's happening here saddens me," Kollene Stauffer, a teacher at Davis K-8, told the Community Education Council.
Stauffer said she understands the district is "broke."
But, Stauffer said, she felt much more optimistic about the district's future last spring when teachers approved what's come to be known as the internal transformation model — the strategy behind the district's state-mandated recovery plan proposed by union and administration leaders.
That plan outlines "workforce savings" required to achieve the district's financial goals. It includes wage reductions between 5 and 15 percent, depending on an employee's job. During the next five years, teachers would see decreases of up to 11.9 percent, according to the plan.
However, the York City Education Association — the formal name of the teachers union — and the district have not yet agreed to a new collective-bargaining agreement. Negotiations began months ago.
Those negotiations are ongoing, Bruce Riek, the union's president, said after Wednesday's meeting. Riek said he's not sure when an agreement will be reached.
Lines of communication seem to have broken down, Stauffer told the council. She referenced an apparent source of some frustration — a proposed clause that would give administrators the authority to require teachers to work extra hours on late notice.
"It's beginning to sound more like a business to me," she said. "I don't want to be placated. I just want to know the truth."
The district's state-appointed chief recovery officer, David Meckley, said he couldn't talk about the specifics of the negotiations. But he assured Stauffer that he and the council were committed to the recovery plan.
Without the salary and benefit concessions reflected in the plan, the internal-transformation model won't work next year, Meckley has said and repeated Wednesday.
The alternative model identified in the recovery plan is partial or complete conversion of district schools to charter schools.
The longer it takes to reach an agreement, the more likely the district will convert to charters, Meckley said.
Riek also stepped to the microphone. He said the district is not implementing the "site-based management" strategy outlined in the recovery plan.
"We are supposed to be discussing everything together, collaboratively," he said. "It's not happening."
The district's apparent proposal to expand administrative power is inconsistent with the site-based management model, Riek said.
Meckley disagreed, saying the two are not incompatible and the district is still working to achieve its site-based management goals.
Josh Renner, a teacher at Ferguson K-8, said he feels like he's back in the Army negotiating with Congress for adequate manpower and resources.
"We need boots and you're arguing about how many calories should go in our (Meals Ready to Eat)," Renner said. "It's just odd."
— Reach Erin James at firstname.lastname@example.org.