NMUSD Teachers OK Contract Deal With School District

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Certificated employees chat outside the Newport-Mesa Unified School District Members of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers picket outside the school district headquarters before a board meeting in October.
— Photo by Daniel Langhorne ©

The Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers has voted to ratify a tentative agreement with the school district, accepting a 3.5 percent raise and the implementation of a collegiate-style calendar for the 2020-21 academic year.

In an election that ended Friday, NMFT teachers, nurses, and psychologists voted 69.4 percent in support and 30.6 percent in opposition to the tentative agreement, according to a union press release.

“The next step is for the NMUSD Board of Trustees to hold a public hearing and ratification vote, likely at their next scheduled meeting,” NMFT President Britt Dowdy wrote in an email to union members.

Newport-Mesa Unified Board President Martha Flour was pleased to hear to the voting results Monday.

“We are looking forward to moving ahead with processing and working toward the calendar,” she said. “We are thrilled we were able to come to some conclusion.”

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District Board of Trustees is scheduled to discuss the matter at its Feb. 11 meeting.

“We appreciate both negotiations teams for working together to come to an agreement that benefits and supports our students,” Supt. Fred Navarro said in a prepared statement.

The tentative agreement includes: A 3.5 percent raise effective Dec. 1, 2019; a start date of Aug. 24 for the 2020-21 academic calendar; an increase in district contributions toward members’ health and welfare benefits; and two fewer workdays for the 2020-21 school year.

The Board of Education approved the 2019-20 agreement in September with the Classified School Employees Association, which represents the District’s support staffers, for a 3.5 percent salary increase and raise the district’s contribution for health and welfare benefits to $20,441. The district’s tentative agreement with NFMT essentially matches that deal.

The tentative agreement doesn’t resolve a 15-month-old legal dispute between the school district and certificated employees over how their healthcare plan is funded.

In October 2018, NMFT filed an unfair practice charge with the Public Employee Relations Board that the Newport-Mesa Unified School District violated state law by failing to fund employees’ 2017-18 health benefits as required by an approved agreement.

Britt Dowdy, president of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers, speaks to union members before the Board of Education meeting in October.
— Photo by Daniel Langhorne ©

Dowdy and his fellow members were disappointed to learn the District stopped contractually-required contributions of $19,293 per employee to the health insurance plan for employees who decline health benefits, a practice that had been around since at least 2001. Even though those employees aren’t taking advantage of the benefit, the District is still supposed to count them when making health insurance payments, according to the complaint.

The District’s attorneys disagree with the union on how to interpret the contract.

This alleged accounting discrepancy was discovered by the union in 2018 during contract negotiations with the school district, according to the complaint.  Based on their contract’s terms, NMFT leaders believe the district should have contributed an additional $6 million to the health plan in Fiscal Year 2017-18, Dowdy said. A full accounting of shortfalls in other years hasn’t been completed.

“We should have done some fiscal accounting,” Dowdy said.

Administrative law judge Valerie Racho with the California Public Employment Relations Board heard testimony in the case on Jan. 29. A decision in these cases is typically offered within three to six months, said Felix De La Torre, general counsel for the California Public Employment Relations Board.

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