WCCUSD declares impasse in negotiations with teachers union

WCCUSD to host community safety forum via Zoom
Photo credit: Kathy Chouteau

The West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) declared an impasse in contract negotiations with the United Teachers of Richmond (UTR) on Thursday and will seek outside mediation to resolve the disagreements.

Coming to agreement on salary adjustments that won’t jeapordize the district’s fiscal solvency is the main issue, according to the school district. Negotiations are occurring after the Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools notified the WCCUSD in September that the district is “no longer fiscally healthy and is unable to meet its financial obligations.”

The district says it offered UTR a cumulative 10 percent raise by July 2023, as well as equity-based salary adjustments for hard-to-staff positions that were far below market rate. To fund those raises, the district proposed budget cuts impacting vacant positions, central office positions, program materials, supplies and contracts and college and career-going programs, according to WCCUSD.

The UTR says the district is misrepesenting the financial outlook and can afford to pay teachers what they deserve and what is required to retain them. In a statement, UTR President John Zabala said the State’s Legislative Analyst Office report on Thursday promises “historic, permanent increases” to education funding for the 23-24 school year.

“Our district has received— and will shortly receive more— state funding than it has EVER received in our professional lives,” Zabala said. “Yet our management determined to deny our students— and each of us— those very dollars we have delivered to WCCUSD coffers through our union and our collective political power at the state level.”

UTR says it is also advocating to incorporate a Community Schools model of education into the UTR contract, while the district alternatively proposes to address Community Schools in a separate document or Memorandum of Understanding.

“Unfortunately, there is a legacy of distrust in our community, and this has impacted our ability to have a shared understanding of district finances,” said Dr. Chris Hurst, who became superintendent of WCCUSD in April 2021. “We are hopeful that third-party mediation will renew our ability to continue the critical work of improving our educators’ salaries.”

In separate contract negotiations, the WCCUSD said it reached a tentative agreement on a similar proposal of a cumulative 10 percent raise by July 2023 and equity-based adjustments with Teamsters Local 856, which represents food service workers, school community outreach workers, school secretaries, and custodians.