Natomas District and Teachers Reach Agreement

THE NATOMAS BUZZ | @natomasbuzz

After a week of intense negotiations, the Natomas Unified School District and its teachers have reached a tentative labor agreement, union leaders announced Thursday night.

The memorandum of understanding paves the way for the district to move forward with plans for distance learning.

One sticking point for the union had been the district’s decision to postpone the start of the school year by two weeks — a move they contend was illegal.

“We are happy that we were able to reach an agreement, and that our members have a deal that has as much detail as we could include,” said Brenda Borge, president of the Natomas Teachers Association.

The union represents about 620 teachers working at district schools and does not include teachers at Westlake Charter, Natomas Charter or NP3 Charter.

Teachers’ first work day will be August 18 and the last day of school will be June 10, 2021. Classes are scheduled to start on August 27 at the district’s traditional elementary, middle and high school campuses as well as Leroy Greene Academy.

A memorandum of understanding or MOU is an agreement detailed in a formal document sometimes used in emergency situations. In this case, the agreement only outlines how teachers will provide instruction during distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It does not include hybrid or in-person learning.

During a brief school board meeting on Wednesday, Natomas Unified superintendent Chris Evans expressed frustration that an agreement had not yet been reached after nine weeks of labor talks.

“We have asked for and will continue to ask for around-the-clock, everyday negotiations,” Evans told school board members. “We need to start turning our attention to how we will support the students as they return.”

At the time, Evans reported that no signed agreements had been reached, despite there being areas on which both sides verbally agreed.

Thursday afternoon union leaders reported to its members that talks had stalled on final points, but both sides were back at the bargaining table just three hours later. By evening, a deal had been struck.

According to the teachers union, the agreement includes three additional paid teacher work days to help prepare for distance learning. Other MOU highlights include:

  • Teachers are not required to go on campus during distance learning;
  • Safety measures for those teacher who choose to work out of their classrooms;
  • Teachers will not be recorded without their permission during class presentations; and
  • Pay and benefits will not be affected, including overages and stipends (if applicable).

Plans for hybrid or in-person learning, which meet county and state health guidelines, still need to be negotiated.

“Everyone should keep in mind that this is an MOU that expires after this year, and that plans for hybrid models will be next to be negotiated in the coming days,” said Borge.

On July 16 Sacramento education and health officials announced the 2020-21 school year would start with distance learning due to increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases. The state later issued the same guidance for counties on its watch list, which includes Sacramento County.

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