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Teachers union ups pressure on Deasy over technology, contract

Vanessa Romo | September 9, 2014

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Alex Caputo Pearl LAUSD Board meeting-9.9.14

President of UTLA, Alex Caputo-Pearl


With a new contract on the line, the LA Unified teachers union, UTLA, is stepping up its attack on Superintendent John Deasy, blaming him for problems large and small and the opening line the district has taken for a new contract with teachers.

Union president Alex Caputo-Pearl ratcheted up the tension at the district board meeting this morning, with a broadside against Deasy, who appeared unmoved throughout the barrage.

“This board has to look very carefully at what money is going into cleaning up after autocratic measures,” Caputo-Pearl told the members, referring to the recent problems surrounding the district’s iPad contract and the bungled roll out of MiSiS, a student data management system.

It was the latest of Caputo-Pearl’s references to Deasy as an autocrat, a broad criticism for unilaterally making policy decisions without consulting or completely ignoring the union’s position on issues.

Caputo-Pearl also used his brief appearance at the meeting to tell the board members they have $507 million in “unrestricted reserves,” suggesting that the money could be included in a new deal for teachers, who have been offered the same contract terms — raises of 2 percent, 2 percent and 2.5 percent over the next three years — as the district has offered its other unions.

“That’s a huge amount,” he said, and he returned to face the board hours later, after its closed session, to repeat his demand to use the $507 million for teachers.

But it’s not all available, according to district officials. Most of the $507 million has already been rolled into the 2014-2015 budget, which means it has been allocated to cover other costs, they said, adding that only $85.8 million remains in reserve for such expenditures as raises for teachers.

The district is also mindful of the impact of teacher raises on the district’s other bargaining units if UTLA were given a contract with higher percentage raises than other unions are receiving. The other unions have what is known informally as “me, too” clauses, which means an increase for one is an increase for all.

Speaking to reporters later, Caputo-Pearl switched gears to announce a hearing before an administrative law judge at Public Employment Relations Board tomorrow over union complaints of Deasy’s reorganization of Crenshaw High School, where Caputo Pearl taught for 12 years..

“The superintendent tried to illegally cleanse Crenshaw High School of union leaders,” he said, adding that Deasy specifically targeted a dozen active union teachers.

UTLA filed an unfair labor practice charge against the district a year ago after the reconstitution of Crenshaw. The move dismantled the existing school improvement model and split the school into three distinct magnet programs.

On another front, Caputo Pearl appeared to be trying to leverage pressure on Deasy through other board members. In a press release yesterday, Caputo Pearl said he called school board president Richard Vladovic asking him to demand Deasy abandon MiSiS.

While it’s unclear how often a UTLA president has ever called the LA Unified president to make a direct plea to influence behavior of the superintendent, the district’s chief employee, it was another unambiguous shot at Deasy.

“The UTLA President deals with the BOE President when the superintendent has proven to be tone deaf to the suffering of educators, students, and parents,” UTLA’s Executive Director Jeff Good told LA School Report.

The full court press against Deasy comes in the middle of labor negotiations for a new contract — the first in more than eight years — in which UTLA is seeking a 17.6 percent salary increase over two years, class size reductions, an end to the widespread practice of teacher jail, and greater access to electives.

After a handful of meetings the two sides remain far apart with no agreement in sight. The next “bargaining” session is tomorrow.

Previous Posts: Deasy on his critics: Constant attacks are ‘politically motivated’; The Ratliff report: one view of the iPad program gone awryDeasy planning to hire his own liaison for MiSiS project

* Clarifies amount of money LA Unified is holding in reserve.

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