As you likely know, the Evergreen School District and Evergreen Teachers Association (ETA) bargaining teams have been engaged in protracted negotiations seeking to reach a contract agreement that supports our shared goal of serving the needs of our students, parents, staff, and the entire Evergreen community.
Disappointingly, to this point we have been unable to arrive at a deal that satisfies the bargaining teams while still working within the realistic limits of the District budget.
By now you have most likely heard about the financial challenges the District is currently facing. We won't belabor the point (you can read in more detail on our web site) except to remind you that our declining enrollment rates due to fewer families able to buy homes in San Jose, leading to much reduced State funding, coupled with astronomically high (and rising) pension costs have left us facing a deficit that is currently projected to be the neighborhood of $16 million.
In the meantime, we have been trying to address this shortfall by looking for possible savings. Cuts are never easy to make and we have worked hard to keep any reductions as far away from the student experience as possible.
In this fiscal environment, the already challenging negotiation process is made that much more difficult. However, we are committed to working with ETA to achieve a contract that is fair to all parties and will allow us to direct our energies to continuing to deliver a quality education for our kids.
The Evergreen School District has consistently been committed to a fair deal for our teachers. Despite the financial constraints we face, we have provided 12.25% in salary increases in recent years (our teachers currently earn an average salary of $95,035, the 5th highest of 32 districts in Santa Clara County) while maintaining among the best benefits in the entire region including a health plan that is recognized as one of the best in the state, and also third highest-funded in the county. We provide this level of compensation because our teachers deserve it; because we know how hard they work and how crucial they are to the success of the District. To that end, despite increasing health costs we are committed to keeping those costs affordable for our employees. This is helped by a move to a new health care arrangement that will limit additional costs to staff. ETA and the District Board of Trustees recently voted in favor of this move, a significant development that will keep costs down and ensure teachers' paychecks aren't negatively impacted.
So, with negotiations and a mediation process failing to produce a deal, what comes next? ETA is currently "working to contract", or, only engaging in activities directly outlined in their contract. They are also sharing information from their perspective at info pickets, online and even in some cases, directly with their students. Meanwhile, impasse has been declared, mediation sessions have taken place and now we likely will enter a phase known as "fact finding" where an independent third party examines the arguments of both parties and offers a non-binding recommendation to resolve the situation.
In the meantime all efforts will continue to be made to resolve this matter equitably and without delay. Moving forward, we are hopeful for a positive resolution, as we know our teachers share with the District a sincere commitment to our students and the Evergreen community.
The District is committed to do the work it takes to arrive at a fair deal. We will return to the table as often and for as long as it takes to reach an agreement that is fair to all. We will continue discussions civilly and forthrightly, respecting the needs of our skilled and dedicated teachers while honoring the responsibility the District has to our families.
Throughout the process it's critical that everyone involved remain respectful and courteous, even when tensions are heightened. Misstatements made in an effort to negatively portray those you may disagree with are not helpful and create an environment that's beneath that which we would want to create for our kids. To that end we will keep a running-response FAQ clarifying such misstatements on our website. We will regularly update this page as we hear things that are untrue, or unnecessarily disparaging.
We will keep you informed as we continue to pursue a resolution to these discussions. Thank you for your continued patience and support and please do not hesitate to contact the District office with any questions you have.