Manhattan Beach Unified School District

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Superintendent Responds to Student Emails About Teacher Negotiations

This week, I received two emails from students who were concerned about issues germane to negotiations with our teachers.  I love it.  When I was a student in high school, I never would have taken the initiative to write the Superintendent!   It is one more example of excellence in our schools, and I have written back to each student.  While I am not attaching their emails, I am providing the elements of my response.  They have taken the initiative and asked questions that others may be asking, so their efforts may help others to learn.   Thanks to our students, and if you are interested, my response is below.

Dear (student),

Thank you for your letter of concern. I appreciate you taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns. As a social studies teacher, I am particularly pleased with your civic interests and willingness to take action. Thank you for that.

As you mentioned, we are in the negotiations process. We have our first full-day meeting scheduled for Monday of next week.

Let me say that I would be extremely pleased if we could resolve negotiations soon. Negotiations take a great deal of time and effort, and I know that both parties would be thrilled to see a quick resolution. I remain optimistic that we can do just that.

I would like to respond to a few of your concerns:
  • You mention that prior to last year, our teachers had not received a raise for ten years.
    • Please know that in 2004, teachers received a 2.25% raise.  In 2006, teachers received a 3% raise.  In 2007, teachers received a 3% raise.
    • It is true that from the 2008-2009 school year, through the 2011-2012 school year, there was no raise.  But during that time, the great recession hit the nation and our state.  We were in the minority of districts in that we did not have pay cuts in the form of furlough days.  These were dark days for public education in California.
    • Last year, we were one of a handful of districts in the state to give a raise to our teachers.  I am very proud of the 3% raise that was agreed upon last year.
  • You mention that we should not have invested in iPads when we had not given our teachers a raise in ten years.
    • As your Superintendent working with the Board of Trustees, we have many objectives to keep in mind.  Absolutely, one of those is providing our teachers with pay that attracts and retains high quality teachers.  Another is working to make sure the facilities and the learning tools for our students and teachers are first rate.  I believe that we have made progress towards both of those goals.
    • When I arrived here in 2010, the biggest complaint I heard from teachers and parents was that technology simply did not work.  Now, we have a robust wireless Internet access that works extremely well.  Yes, we have iPads, mostly purchased by PTAs and parents in grades 5-8.  We also have computer labs at Mira Costa.  And it all works.  Hundreds of educators from around the state visit our campuses each year to learn from our teachers, and one of their primary objectives is to observe how we integrate technology.  In the year 2013, I am very pleased to be part of a school district where our students and teachers have 21st century teaching and learning tools.
  • Finally, you mention our PERB complaint.
    • Sometimes, in professional worlds, the parties disagree.  The District believes we have provided the information that was requested by MBUTA, while MBUTA does not.  That's what the legal process is supposed to do -- resolve disputes.  We have a dispute on whether that information has been properly provided.  Soon, we will find out what PERB decides.  If they say we have to provide additional information, we will do just that.  If they say we don't, then we will not.  We will abide by whatever decision PERB makes.
    • If you are interested, I encourage you to take a look at the information we have provided.  You can find it all, including our response to the most recent request from MBUTA, here
In a perfect world, my wish would be that you, as a student, did not have to deal with all of this. I truly dislike it when I hear about actions that are taken that have a negative impact on you as a student. These are adult issues, and I wish we could keep them between adults.

That being said, you are interested and you have taken the initiative to write,so you deserve a complete answer. I believe that teachers are the backbone of public education, and public education is the backbone of our society. I remain committed to providing you and all students with high quality teachers who are compensated fairly with competitive salary and benefits. I remain committed to providing students and teachers with the facilities, materials and teaching and learning tools they need to maximize student learning. I am constantly inspired by the amazing efforts of our teachers and I am awed by the achievements of our students. I feel incredibly fortunate to work in MBUSD, and I am hopeful that we can all work together for a settlement in the near future.

Thank you again for your interest.

Michael D. Matthews