California Educator

June/July 2020

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But when Orgon learned the order had already been can- celed, it was a sign of the tumultuous negotiations to come. LEA and the district eventually negotiated two separate agree- ments — one that addressed initial issues of holding students harmless and outlining distance learning parameters, and a second MOU to address hours and working conditions, as well as other issues arising from district administration's unilateral directives to staff. "We thought we had things relatively well covered in the first MOU," she says. "But then the district created several COVID task forces, some which lacked proper representation for edu- cators and other bargaining unit staff." In rural Modoc County, located in the northeast corner of the state, Modoc Teachers Association (MTA) President Katie Copp says impacts from the pandemic have been less significant than in more populous areas, but serious nonethe- less. MTA began negotiations immediately with Modoc Joint Unified School District to protect their members, securing agreements to protect educators' health, safety and financial security. "We made sure that those who were on leave were returned to paid status and that members were not required to go into school except for necessary school duties," Copp says. "We asked for rooms to be deep-cleaned and sanitized after each member had gone into their classrooms." Some difficult negotiations When locals went into these negotiations with agreement lan- guage from CTA that protects educators and students, they expected school district administrators to share their priorities. In many cases, this was not true. Copp says the district delayed and dragged on the negotiations for three weeks, showing no urgency in ensuring educators and students had the protections they needed. "In the end, we did agree to the basics of the MOU in regard to cleaning of classrooms, provisions for hand sanitizer, a 48-hour return notice, and a return to full pay for those on leave," says Copp, noting that the district refused to agree to conditions to return to school, assert- ing that administrators would make the decision based on rec omm end ations from stat e and county health officials. "We always worked really well together in supporting each other on the sides of administrators, teachers and students, so it came as a huge surprise when the district pushed back on the idea of needing an MOU to extend protections to our staff." In Whittier, Vogel says his team faced the same delaying tactics from district administrators, who seemed more interested in getting opinions from their legal counsel than acting quickly to protect educa- tors and students. WETA responded to district proposals San Francisco Modoc County Los Angeles Orcutt Lodi Marysville Whittier San Jose Katie Copp psychologists, speech-language pathologists, counselors and regular classroom teachers." Protections for all Lodi Education Association (LEA) President Michelle Orgon requested guidance just as the decision was made to close schools in mid-March. During a meeting with the district's executive cabinet, Orgon says, the Lodi Unified superintendent was certain school would resume within a few weeks, and she assured educators that the district had ordered a sufficient amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect staff and students. "We were able to negotiate teacher flexibility and freedom on instruction delivery, and instructional time flexibility based on teacher knowledge and students' capabilities." —Alex Vogel, Whittier Elementary Teachers Association 37 J U N E / J U L Y 2 0 2 0

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