In a time where money is tight for schools Desert Sands Teachers Association is nervous that pay cuts could be in their future while superintendents and assistant superintendents get to keep their 13 percent pay raise.
Trina Gonzales-Alesi, president of the DSUSD teachers association, said teachers contracts expired on June 30th.
“We were willing to accept no salary increases to close out the contract and complete the bargaining and the district said no,” she said.
Gonzales-Alesi said she believes the district left it open so that they could negotiate salary cuts.
“We’re not going to be getting any pay raises, we will be paying more for our medical insurance,” she said.
DSUSD’s Public Information Officer Mary Perry said the district won’t cut teacher’s pay. She mentioned the governor’s budget preserves funding for K-12 schools.
Gonzalez-Alesi said she worries the priority is being put on top management rather than teachers.
Back in December, tensions ran high as teachers were informed that some top officials for Desert Sands would get a 13 percent pay raise. Perry said the total average increase to their salaries was 8.68 percent.
“There’s absolutely no way teachers would get a 13 percent increase in pay,” Gonzales-Alesi said. “We usually come in at about 1 or 2 percent.”
The district said it was in an effort to be more competitive with other districts in the county.
Linda Porras, president of the DSUSD school board, said in a statement to NBC Palm Springs: “Representing 28,000 students, the Desert Sands Unified School District is the largest school district in the Coachella Valley. The board of education works to ensure that its salaries remain at a competitive level for its 2,700 employees.”
This is all relevant right now because recently, top officials said they would take two furlough days where they wouldn’t work but also wouldn’t get paid.
“That was at least a nice gesture that they would be willing to take furlough days and they have not asked for any from teachers,” Gonzales-Alesi said.
DSUSD school board member Gary Tomak asked to remove the furlough days from the contract at a recent board meeting.
“I don’t believe that our cabinet and superintendent should be taking two furlough days at all because of all the increased workload that they’ve had to endure through these challenging times,” Tomak said.
NBC Palm Springs reached out to Gary Tomak’s office but did not receive a response.
“I can tell you that teachers are also working hard over the summer,” Gonzales-Alesi said. “I’ve had a number of teachers contact me saying that they’ve purchased on their own new computers, new printers, they’ve expanded their WiFi bandwidth. That’s money out of their own pocket.”
In a statement provided to NBC Palm Springs, Perry says:
“It is not the policy of Desert Sands Unified School District to discuss negotiations while still at the bargaining table. We would note, however, that during a negotiation session on May 7, 2020, the teachers’ union (DSTA) proposed closing contract negotiations and leaving a number of open articles “status quo” including discussions on salaries and benefits. The district was amenable to this as long as both parties had the ability to reopen negotiations for bargainable issues related to the pandemic, distance learning, or the District’s financial condition. Ultimately, both parties entered into a mutual Memorandum of Understanding to suspend negotiations from May 7 until August 17, due the financial uncertainties of the state budget. We anticipate completing the negotiations at that time and will be happy to provide details at that time.”