Alya Mehrtash staff writer
This article was updated on Oct. 4, 2018, to include comments from Howard Goldstein.
The new agreement, which runs through on July 1, 2020, primarily addresses staff salaries and benefits. This agreement comes after over a year of negotiations and an official impasse between the district and the teachers’ union. According to union representative and chemistry teacher Christopher Bushee, one of the most prominent points of debate in these negotiations was the salary formula, a formula established in 2014 meant to give teachers consistent raises and limit the need for negotiations over the labor contracts in the future. The district wanted to eliminate the use of this formula, while the union wanted to keep it in place.
“Our interest was to get a settlement that reflected the value of that asset—the value of this formula—because this formula was a way for us to get a certain percentage [of salary raise] each and every year,” Bushee said. “We gave up that security in order to get a good deal on compensation this time. The market value, so to speak, of the negotiated settlement is a higher market value than what the formula would have delivered over these three years, so that was kind of like the trade off.”
BHUSD board member Howard Goldstein believes that both the district and the union benefited in some way through the agreement.
“Both parties were very patient with the bargaining process and worked well together to find a positive resolution to impasse,” Goldstein said.
In Bushee’s eyes these negotiations, like most others, include benefits and sacrifices for both parties. While the union had to give up the implementation of the salary formula, they received what Bushee sees as fair raises up until the 2020-21 school year.
“I just think that for peace of mind, anytime you can find a settlement that advances some of the interests—it is negotiation. You’re not going to get everything you want,” Bushee said. “But as long as you can get enough of your interests met at the bargaining table through a negotiated settlement, the certainty that that provides helps people move on.”
Although he was happy with the results of the new agreement, Goldstein felt that both parties had room for improvement when it comes to negotiations.
“Moving forward both sides must recognize that airing their bargaining issues publicly undermines the bargaining process and only serves to entrench the other side,” Goldstein said. “[It] makes it that much more difficult to find common ground and resolution.”
The impasse has not only affected members of the board and of the BHEA, but has also impacted the lives of students. Goldstein believes that with the new contract, everyone’s needs were acknowledged, including those of the students.
“Negotiations are truly the art of compromise, and I feel that this agreement has found a good balance between the needs of our students, the best interests of our teachers, and meets my obligation as a fiduciary to all stakeholders in the community,” Goldstein said.