The new school year is scheduled to begin Monday. Students have begun bemoaning the end of summer. Parents are back-to-school shopping. And teachers officially report to their schools on Wednesday, though many have already begun the process of setting up their classrooms and preparing for class.
It all seems like the routine start of another academic year, but the threat of a teacher’s strike of the country’s fifth largest school district in the nation still looms overhead.
Clark County Education Association Executive Director John Vellardita says the authorization to strike, which due-paying members of the union approved in May, is “still alive and still an option.” He says the call for a strike depends on two things. First, whether individual middle and high schools made mandated budget cuts that resulted in larger class sizes and/or eliminated teacher positions. Second, whether teachers receive the raises they were promised by the governor and legislative session earlier this year.
Regarding the former, CCSD Superintendent Jesus Jara attempted to balance the district budget by eliminating all dean positions at middle and high schools — a choice that was met with harsh criticism and challenged in court. Jara reversed the decision and instead passed the responsibility onto middle and high school principals, who were allowed to reduce their budgets however they saw fit.
Every school has submitted its adjusted budget. According to Vellardita, the district and the union are independently reviewing them, with the union paying close attention to whether teacher positions and classroom sizes are being affected. That process, he added, will likely be finished by Wednesday.
As for teacher raises, Vellardita says the union and district held its latest round of negotiations regarding their contract and raises on Tuesday but failed to reach an agreement.
“We will be giving (the district) a deadline,” he said.
Vellardita would not say when that deadline might be but hinted it may be sooner rather than later.
“There is no raise as of now. This is getting close to D-Day. We are not going to let this be prolonged.”
The School Board is agendized to hear an update on the ongoing negotiations at their upcoming meeting on Thursday. The presentation and trustee discussion will be held behind closed doors, as the action is protected by Nevada Revised Statute. Trustees could offer direction to district officials on how to proceed with the bargaining.
Vellardita says the bottom line is there is still a lot up in the air.
“We’re bound and determined,” he says. “However, we know there are some land mines ahead.”