WCCUSD educators getting 14.5 percent salary hike within five months

Kennedy High welding program to benefit from Airgas education initiative
Kennedy High School, Richmond.

West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) educators will see a total 14.5 percent increase in salary within the next five months, part of a three-year contract agreement between the school district and the United Teachers of Richmond (UTR) that was ratified by UTR members on Friday, according to the school district.

In statements, the school district called the agreement “historic,” saying it reflects the highest two-year total increase that WCCUSD has offered in more than 20 years.

As part of the agreement, the district says it will additionally increase the dollar amount of benefits contributions to maintain employees’ current level of health coverage and buffer the rising cost of medical care; establish mental health as an approved reason for Personal Necessity Leave; and expand parental leave (see a summary of agreements incorporated in the contract at the bottom of this story).

“While financing this agreement was not easy, we are proud to offer this critical investment in our educators,” WCCUSD Superintendent Dr. Chris Hurst said. “We strongly believe that this is an ethical reimagination of our district priorities, investing in our students, schools, and programs by recruiting and retaining highly qualified classroom educators.”

According to the district, financing the agreement required “aggressive reallocation of resources” and will mean the district’s budget will undergo significant operational cuts.

The newly ratified deal with UTR followed contentious negotiations and averted a potential strike. 

When an impasse in negotations was declared in December, the district had reportedly offered its educators a cumulative 10 percent raise by July this year, as well as equity-based salary adjustments for hard-to-staff positions that were far below market rate. The UTR countered with a cumulative 17 percent increase in the same period, and had additionally requested increases in the third year of the contract, tied to an expected increase in state funding. 

In a statement last week, the California Teachers Association (CTA) lauded the new agreement as prioritizing both safety and educator pay. In addition to the negotiated 14.5 percent salary increase, the new contract requires that MERV-31 or HEPA filters are placed in all workplaces, incorporates procedures to document safety concerns and provides educators with trauma informed de-escalation strategies, according to the CTA.

The new deal also incorporates language pertaining to the development of a Community Schools model of education into the UTR contract, a first for CTA member associations. A Community Schools model is one that develops partnerships between a school and other community resources that support a child’s growth beyond the classroom, with an integrated focus on academics, social services, leadership and community engagement, according to the CTA.

According to the WCCUSD, the role of classroom educators in shared governance of Community Schools was a point of contention in the recent contract negotiations. The district had previously proposed addressing incorporation of Community Schools in a separate document or Memorandum of Understanding.

UTR President John Zabala said the new contract agreement, which was approved by 72.84 percent of 1,182 voting UTR members on Friday, achieves the union’s priorities.

“This was only possible through the incredible organizing efforts that our union demonstrated this year. New leaders have emerged and stepped up, giving up their nights and weekends,” Zabala said. “It has been an honor to meet and work with our zone captains, our organizing team, and our picket captains. We owe them so much.”

Summary of Agreements Included in the 2022-2025 Contract Deal Between WCCUSD and the UTR (as provided by the district):

Increases in Compensation

  • A 14.5% salary increase over the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 contract years, broken down as follows:

    • 7% for the 2022-2023 school year, retroactive to July 1, 2022, including a 1% salary increase that funds additional educator time for collaboration and assessment;

    • 7.5% for the 2023-2024 school year, including 1.5% to fund 1 additional educator workday in the work year;

  • Increased dollar amount in benefits contributions in order to maintain employees’ current level of coverage and buffer the rising cost of medical care, amounting to the equivalent of another 1.06% of compensation each year for the next three years; 

  • An increase of the educator overtime rate, from $33 per hour to $42 per hour; as well as an increase of the period subbing rate to $50 for secondary and $55 for elementary; and

  • Increased rate for required staff development.

Direct Efforts to Address the Educator Staffing Crisis

  • Removal of the limit on years of service that new employees can bring from another district;

  • Improvement to the value and function of teacher transfer rounds by providing a financial incentive for teachers who notify the District of retirement/resignation by 2/1 of each school year;

  • Compensation at the hourly rate for nurses covering for the absence of another nurse; and

  • Compensation at 120% rate for nurses covering a higher caseload due to unfilled positions.

Recognition of Educators’ Work Beyond the Instructional Day

  • A self-directed, work-from-home compensated workday (an extraordinarily rare work benefit for K-12 teachers)

  • A salary increase of 3.5% for secondary teachers who teach more than 3 preps (that is, who have to prepare to teach more than three different courses);

  • Additional stipend for elementary teachers teaching combination classes;

  • One paid week of collaboration for Speech Language Pathologists; and

  • Additional stipends for teacher leadership positions, including Teacher in Charge, Community Schools Lead Teacher, World Languages Department Chair, Assistive Technology (WATR) Department Chair.

Commitment to Shared Governance of Schools:

  • A first in the state of California: Contractual language to maintain our educators’ partnership in shared governance of WCCUSD’s long-standing Community Schools initiatives, both at the district and school site levels; and

  • Continuation of the collaborative process for creating the professional collaboration calendar at every school.

Improvements to Educators’ Wellness and Safety:

  • Expansion of the approved reasons for Personal Necessity Leave to include mental health;

  • MERV-13 filters or HEPA air purifiers for all workspace;

  • Streamlined process for safety complaints;

  • Expansion of paid parental leave, from 2 weeks on top of FMLA leave to 3 weeks on top of FMLA leave; and

  • Removal of the sunset clause for parental leave.

Improvements to Teaching and Learning Environments:

  • Continuation of class size reductions that went into effect on July 1, 2022;

  • Reduction of class size for Career Technical Education classes;

  • Reduction of the counselor-to-student ratio at high schools, from 350:1 to 338:1; and 

  • Improved safeguards for space in dance classes by establishing class size as a 6 foot radius per student within the assigned dance room, up to a maximum of 51 in large rooms.