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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators
John Gray, president and CEO of School Services of California, and Namita Brown, partner at Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, advised attendees on how to maintain the upper hand on their finance-related communications.
Bargaining discussed at online conference
Attendees had big questions on school reopening and Safe Schools for All grant
February 1, 2021
Attendees had big questions on school reopening and Safe Schools for All grant Will school employees be required to get the COVID vaccine? How do you explain the “windfall” budget to bargaining groups? How do we build connections with staff during remote work?
Negotiating teams came together to ask these questions and more at the 2021 Virtual Negotiators’ Symposium Jan. 20-21. More than 225 attendees heard from legal experts on how to approach conversations with bargaining units. They also got vital information on how Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Safe Schools for All reopening plan will affect negotiations.
For the first time, the symposium was held online. Attendees logged on to watch 24 sessions, including breakout rooms that allowed negotiators to share their questions and concerns with colleagues.
“The biggest takeaway for me was the subtle reminder that I was not alone in the successes and challenges impacting school districts,” said Jonathan Ferrer, Assistant Superintendent, Human Resources, Novato Unified School District. “The resources, examples, and story sharing from my colleagues provides me the continued inspiration I need on the importance of doing this work.”
First-time Attendees Workshop
Negotiators’ Symposium planning committee members Don Ogden (Folsom Cordova USD), Darvin Jackson (Monrovia USD), Melanie Jones (San Ramon Valley USD) and Cindy Frazee (San Dieguito UHSD) shared their advice for new HR administrators during the First-time Attendees Workshop.
Building relationships is the first priority for any new administrator in HR. Panelists shared that getting to know your team, including colleagues in the business office and technology, and popping into classrooms are two ways you can put the “human” in human resources.
Panelists also stressed the need to reach out to build networks with fellow HR administrators.
“Because we’re in COVID, we’re in uncharted waters,” said Jackson. “Don’t make decisions in a vacuum — gather information with your colleagues in other districts.”
Jones shared that gaining the historical context on the relationship with labor partners is key for new HR administrators, who may be negotiating for the first time.
“We are all feeling inundated and overwhelmed with the amount of work we are responsible for in this time. We have to return to the table yet again possibly as it pertains to the COVID plan for your district,” she said. “Bringing all labor partners together to have this conversation can expedite the process, which we don’t normally do. Whenever you can, do what you can to bring things together and make life a little bit simpler, work collaboratively on issues and challenges that your district is facing.”
Legal updates
Matt Phillips and Danyel Conolley, directors of Management Consulting Services for School Services of California, helped put the “windfall” budget proposal for 2021-22 into perspective for bargaining teams.
Philips said bargaining partners may want to claim the 3.84 percent COLA in the proposed budget, but he reminded districts that they received no new funding for the COLA in 2020-21, when the Legislature enacted the “hold harmless” budget for schools.
“We are made whole going forward, but we are still missing that one-time adjustment from the 2020-21 year,” he said.
They also spoke about the incentive grants for schools to reopen under the governor’s Safe Schools for All plan. These incentives could mean millions of dollars for some of their district clients, but Phillips and Conolley said the timeline for districts to negotiate new labor agreements by Jan. 25 is causing quite a bit of pressure.
“While it’s difficult to turn the other way, there are also a lot of obstacles in terms of how to get this done in time,” Conolley said.
In another session on the Safe Schools for all incentive grants, Director of Government Relations for Schools Services of California Leilani Aguinaldo cautioned that for some districts, the incentive funds may only cover testing costs that are required to reopen.
“For a lot of you, the money could end up not penciling out,” she said. “That’s a local decision you’ll have to decide with your stakeholders and your board.”
John Gray, president and CEO of School Services of California, and Namita Brown, partner at Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, advised attendees on how to maintain the upper hand on their finance-related communications.
“Preparation is key. You can’t show up day one of bargaining and share these data points with the union,” Brown said. “I encourage you in utilizing your bargaining team, both sides, … to have them be part of the money conversations early on.”
While the financial picture for districts may look rosy now, Gray emphasized the need to keep educating stakeholders on multi-year projections, which may not look so good, but are vital to ensuring fiscal solvency.
“They don’t want to hear it, they’re not going to listen. You need to keep saying it,” he said.
Attendees were able to ask questions during an attorney panel featuring Peter Schaffert, a partner with Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo, Jay Fernow, a partner with Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, and John Yeh, a partner with Burke, Williams & Sorensen.
Can districts compel employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine? There is precedent to compel vaccinations related to the smallpox vaccine, but employers will want to proceed cautiously, said Schaffert.
“It’s the law of the land, yes we can. The question is should we?” he said.
“Some child in one of the 1,000 school districts that you represent — you are their voice, you give them hope.” —Simon T. Bailey, Motivational coach and author
Coping with COVID
Mike Shepherd, director of human resources with Folsom Cordova Unified School District, and Ogden, Folsom Cordova USD’s assistant superintendent, HR, presented on how HR is helping employees cope with the COVID era.
Shepherd said their staff are meeting weekly on Zoom in an un-agendized format to encourage a personal connection that has been lost during remote work. During these meetings, they share hilarious online videos as a way to “interject humor” into their days.
The panelists also fielded serious questions about managing the emotions of employees, who have concerns about working during COVID-19.
Keynote Simon T. Bailey
Motivational speaker, author and coach Simon T. Bailey encouraged attendees to “spark hope” during his live keynote address.
Bailey shared his difficult high school experiences that led to a suicide attempt. But a connection he had with one teacher changed him forever. He asked attendees to fill the chat with the names of the teachers they had who made a difference in their lives.
“The reason children drop out of schools is because they lose hope,” Bailey said. “I submit to you that as we think about leading and negotiating, you are agents of hope. You are advocates of hope. Some child in one of the 1,000 school districts that you represent — you are their voice, you give them hope.”
Bailey also shared his expertise on “reframing collaboration” during negotiations by sharing authentic stories, finding the “underlying worry” and flipping the conversation into finding the win-win-win.
“It’s not about what I can get, it’s what we can get,” he said.
Motivational speaker and author Simon T. Bailey shared how to “reframe collaboration” during negotiations.
ACSA’s new online conference platform allowed attendees to navigate between sessions and interact using features such as messaging, chat, bookmarked sessions and more.
Negotiators’ Symposium planning committee member Melanie Jones hosts a Q&A panel with attorneys from Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Ruud & Romo; Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost; and Burke, Williams & Sorensen.
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