Farmersville Unified teachers, administration remain far apart in negotiations

Farmersville Unified School District teachers site inflation, mismanagement as contributing factors to a stalemate in negotiations with administration

FARMERSVILLE – Farmersville Unified teachers and district administration don’t seem any closer to reaching an agreement after months of negotiations.

Superintendent Paul Sevillano announced at the March 22 school board meeting its latest offer to the Farmersville Teachers Association (FTA), Farmersville’s chapter of the California Teachers Association (CTA), including a 4% raise, a fully funded health care plan, and increase of $10 to their hourly rate. The offer also included a $4,000 one-time stipend for concurrent instruction for the 2022-23 school year in addition to a $4,000 stipend teachers through a separate memorandum of understanding (MOU). Concurrent instruction is where teachers offer both instruction to students sitting in the classroom while simultaneously teaching students at home through live streaming video for those on independent study. While the MOU has been settled, as long as teachers agree to continue concurrent instruction, the teachers union and the district have not reached an agreement.

“He said that he offered us 4%, when inflation is at 7.5% right now. So it’s actually a pay cut, and that’s pretty frustrating,” said Julie McIntosh, an academic coach at Farmersville Jr. High School and the grievance chair for Farmersville’s chapter of the CSEA. 

During the meeting, teachers and school administration aired concerns that their salaries aren’t matching an often intense and demanding workload. Some teachers mentioned working well beyond the hours they were being compensated for and being routinely asked to put in volunteer hours to complete necessary tasks. 

Several teachers brought up ways the district could potentially cut down on spending costs, including retaining more experienced faculty instead of investing in costly programs and cracking down on legal fees. 

Andrew Gonzalez, a language arts teacher at Farmersville Jr. High School, cited a recent LCAP report that highlighted improvements in students’ academic performance. He attributed the growth to the expertise of experienced teachers. 

“Our experience has freed us from relying on expensive programs, one after another, year after year. Rather, we rely on the skills and knowledge that we have refined over the years of experience working with students and in this community,” Gonzalez said. 

Other teachers urged the board to make inquiries into legal fees paid by the school district, which amounted to nearly $200,000 in attorney invoices since February 2021. Some of this was used in response to unfair labor practice charges filed against the district by representatives from the California Teachers’ Association, according to McIntosh.

“CTA has filed, on behalf of one of our teachers, an unfair labor practice charge because this teacher had engaged in union activity and then almost immediately started experiencing retribution,” McIntosh said. 

According to Sevillano, the compensation package is the most competitive in the county–in particular, the two-year, $8,000 independent study bonus is the highest one-time bonus to be offered in two years–and was agreed upon within the restraints of a significant drop in state funding following lower attendance rates during the pandemic. 

“Inflation is affecting us all,” Sevillano said. “Our costs as a district have risen sharply in the areas of food service, transportation, and supplies. Everyone is feeling the effects of inflation.”

Sevillano noted that teachers’ hourly overtime rate is also increasing by $10 as part of the negotiation package. 

“It’s a recognition of all the hard work our teachers have done,” Sevillano said. “We’ve offered the highest bonus in over two years in any other district, and we feel really strongly that this is a very competitive compensation package.” 

From the hum of disappointed murmurs that filled the school board’s crowded meeting room, it’s safe to say Farmersville’s teachers don’t find the package to be as competitive as Sevillano does.

“Why is the district so unwilling to invest in its students’ education?” Gonzalez said. “Has not the time come to retain qualified, experienced teachers and reach the educational goals this community and its students so deserve?”

Classified Agreement

The district has reached an agreement with its other major bargaining unit representing classified employees. At the March 22 meeting, Sevillano announced an agreement with the FUSD chapter of the California School Employees Association (CSEA). 

Classified employees, such as office and clerical staff, custodians and bus drivers, will receive a package similar to that being offered to teachers including a 4% increase in the salary schedule, fully funded health benefits package, and incentives for staff who earn degrees within their field of work. The district also negotiated a separate MOU with CSEA to pay members a prorated stipend in recognition of the change in working conditions they have endured due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Eight-hour employees will receive a $2,440 one-time bonus during the current school year and another $2,440 one-time bonus during the next school year.

-This article was updated at 2:25 p.m. PST on March 25, 2022.

Start typing and press Enter to search