Teachers Thankful After Last Year’s Arduous Salary Negotiations

In a dramatically different scene than those that played out a year ago in the La Cañada Unified School District board room, a large group of teachers rose in unison at Tuesday’s Governing Board meeting and held aloft bright yellow placards that read, “Thank you.”


In 2016, many of those same teachers filled the room, hoisting signs that accused district administrators of failing to adequately appreciate them. On one occasion, they synchronized the release of black balloons in protest of what they were being offered during a contentious salary negotiation.
Eventually, after more than 90 hours of negotiations, the sides came to a consensus when the district found a way to offer long-term salary restructuring that brought its teachers lifetime earnings in line with comparable schools.
This year’s negotiations appear that they will run more smoothly.
On Tuesday, the board approved proposals for the district and California School Employees Association; in December, the board approved the proposals for the district and La Cañada Teachers Association. Negotiations will start Friday.
Before Jeff Davis got to any of that, La Cañada High School English teacher Leslie Baldwin delivered a statement that left Superintendent Wendy Sinnette wiping away tears.
“I always tell my kids to avoid clichés — avoid them like the plague — but it does take a village to turn a corner,” Baldwin said. “I want to thank the Governing Board and … most of all, Wendy Sinnette. Her unwavering determination to right the ship, to stay the course and to guide us to safer waters has made all the difference. She is a treasure.”
Sinnette — who, along with the district, was sued in December by former La Cañada Elementary School Principal Christine Castillo for alleged pregnancy discrimination — also received a statement of support from LCTA President Mandy Redfern.
Redfern commended Sinnette, her fellow administrators and the board: “Thank you for pushing all of us to be our best and to stay focused on our students and the work that we do; your generosity, your grace, your kindness and your leadership are truly one of a kind, and we just want you to know that we thank you.”
Items set for discussion include compensation, health and welfare, evaluations, leaves, grievance procedures and the school calendar.

CAMPUS BREAK-INS
A break-in occurred at the principal’s office at Paradise Canyon Elementary School last weekend, according to Mark Evans, the district’s chief business and operations officer. He said the burglary, which was discovered Saturday, was the second on an LCUSD campus in a matter of weeks.
On Jan. 11, there was a break-in at LCHS, Evans said. Last week, he said, a desktop computer was taken from the office.
“Some items were stolen that were not of great value,” Evans said. “Most of the monetary damage was to doors and windows being broken.”
Evans said the district has hired extra security to monitor its campuses, either in the form of a posted guard or in a roving car.

GOLDEN APPLE FOR PORTANTINOS
Sinnette announced that this year’s Golden Apple Award will go to newly elected state Sen. Anthony Portantino and his wife, Ellen, whose “service and volunteerism to the district has been phenomenal,” Sinnette said.
The La Cañada Flintridge residents have been dependable volunteers: Ellen, a Warner Bros. executive and Girl Scouts leader, has served as a PTA officer. Anthony, a former LCF mayor, also has been active in the PTA.

FIELD LICENSING
Board members appeared primed to reconsider altering the current lease agreement with Los Angeles Premier Futbol Club to a licensing deal. The LCF-based soccer club program has agreed to pay $3,000 per month through June 30, 2020, for use of the recently upgraded LCHS athletic field. (The organization previously paid $1,500 per month as part of a lease through 2018.)
But F.C. Golden State’s Bob Friedland told the board that because field space is at such a premium, the district could receive more compensation if it opened up bidding for use of the field.
“Put your foot down and ask that L.A. Premiere be a good partner,” Friedland said. “Ask for a minimum of $4,000.”
Board member Ellen Multari suggested her fellow board members carefully weigh the decision, recalling how often she heard about what she considered a puzzling contract while she was campaigning for a spot on the board in 2011.
“I don’t want somebody scratching his head about what we did here today,” she said. “I want to make the right decision.”
L.A. Premier’s Barry Ritson touted the organization’s community ties and said it’s already at the top of its budget.

ATHLETIC SCHEDULING
LCHS will begin implementing a plan that changes the way student-athletes earn physical education credit, Assistant Principal Mary Hazlett said. Starting next academic year with incoming freshman, athletes — all of whom will now try out for their sports during the summer — will participate in a year-round 6th-period class in which they either will dedicate time to a sport or to P.E. curriculum. Athletes will no longer receive the same credit for an abbreviated “8th-period” sport-specific class.

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