For years, Poway Unified School District has existed as a kind of educational Never-Neverland: a place where school officials and the teachers union sailed through negotiations, brokering amicable deals that – for the most part – left both sides content even in tough times.
But that all seems to be unraveling.
It turns out that Poway’s successes occurred while the district and teacher’s union were breaking labor laws that require public notice of their contract talks. Now other labor unions are mad, and new school board members – elected to provide more oversight in the wake of a bond-deal blowup – are seeking change.
At the center of the dispute is Superintendent John Collins and the president of the Poway Federation of Teachers, Candy Smiley.
“John and Candy cut up the pie,” said school board member Charlie Sellers, who was elected in November. “The previous board simply rubber-stamped their action and this board is actually questioning their actions and they don’t like it.”
While other districts faced strike threats amid deep state budget cuts, Poway turned to early retirement incentives and left vacated positions vacant, a move that increased class sizes but avoided layoffs. The district also cut days from the work year, which reduced teacher salaries by 2.7 percent in 2009-10, and 4.3 percent in each of the following two school years before the “rollbacks” ended in 2012-13.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
Wow, go away for a few hours and the comments light up! Just to follow up, I do believe that Mr. Sellers, as an elected official on the School Board, has a right to ask questions, and provide oversight and ultimately a vote on any deal. That's the way the system works. He got elected. I hope that that oversight and questioning will be done with decorum and in a spirit of furthering the best education for our kids. Because as @Erik Bruvold noted, it is the strong working relationship between the board, administration and teachers that has historically distinguished the Poway USD for others in the area that are battling over paychecks, while the kids suffer. I brag openly to everyone about the relationship between the teachers in my district and the administration. Please keep that relationship. If the classified employees have felt left out of the mix, lets find a way to bring them into the fold. I think that the custodian at my son's school is awesome. And he is a favorite amongst the kids. He is a big part of the team as well, and think he should be included too. But the WAY we talk about things, and the WAY we interact with one another can set the tone for the future. I have a friend who was a High School teacher in San Diego Unified that left the profession several years ago, because he was sick of the fights between his union and the district. I don't want to see the excellent teachers of Poway USD leave because of this fight. They have stayed and the district has prospered not because anyone is getting big paychecks, but because they believe that they are all in it for the kids. Don't turn it into an every group for themselves type of district. If so, our kids will be the ones who suffer the consequences.
@Charles Sellers, you appear to be doing nothing more than speaking only to your talking points and name calling rather than addressing the FACT-BASED comments by Mr. Davis and Mr. McMillan. Why is this? Many of us that vehemently disagree with your viewpoint have done a great job of answering the questions you raise based on facts. You can try and spin this any way you want and continue to perpetuate the circus you have created, but the facts regarding the IBPS process speak for themselves. Your ignorance and unwillingness to see the truth and educate yourself is greatly disappointing, both as a teacher, and a tax payer.
Ashley, you could not be more wrong in your analysis of the actions of Charles Sellers and Ms. Beatty. Marc Davis has done a good job articulating reality and presenting factual information for your use. I would encourage you to do your homework and try Fact Checking the information you are receiving from these two board members. I served on the PUSD Board for twelve years (1994-2006) and was one of the board members who was instrumental in bringing IBPS to the District. IBPS works. PUSD is a model for school districts across the nation. There is nothing illegal with the process. There is no conflict of interest in the way IBPS works. In my time on the Board, we were everything but a Rubber Stamp. The fact the Board and Superintendent were on the same page, working together to ensure the vision and mission for the education of children was met and that mission was the first priority, then maybe some would view that as a rubber stamp. I would submit that is a good thing.
Clearly the agenda of Sellers and Beatty are not focused on the education of children. It is on issues they have created to drum support to replace the Superintendent and other staff. Their half truths, short sound bites and twisting of information has created issues where there were none.
Please do your due diligence and provide accurate information related to the issues in PUSD. To do anything less is doing a disservice to those who read your writings.
As one of those
former PUSD "rubber stamp board members" (none of which was contacted
for comment on this article), I take great exception with a number findings in the article.
1. The legal issue raised around "sunshining" new contract talks is a red herring for what is really going on here in PUSD. Two of our unions, PSEA (classified staff) and SEIU (bus drivers), want more money for their members. That's it. It is really simple understand and a very normal thing for them to want. They want more positions restored, higher wages, higher benefits, etc. And with a finite school budget, the only way for one group to get more is to take it from another group. And that "other group" is the teachers. As a former board member, we spent hundreds of hours reviewing contract negotiations. The "Sun-shining" legal issue, recently raised, in no way affected contract talks or the ultimate contracts approved. None. And to call previous board members a "rubber stamp" is offensive to the talented and devoted board members that I served with. Remember it is these board member that helped to lead PUSD to the educational excellence for which they are so well known.
2. This is a simple union power play. PSEA and SEIU were successful in spending $37k combined of their union dues to get Charles Sellers and Michelle O'connor Ratcliffe elected last fall. They spent a similar amount to get Kimberley Beatty elected in 2012. And now they want to be "paid back". This makes sense, but let's call it what it is - and not manufacture a false cover for what it is not. Watch the video of the April 14th Special Board meeting in which many speakers basically told the board, "We got you elected. Now do our bidding". In Mr. Sellers case, his wife is a PSEA member and he would benefit directly from any increases that might flow to their members. Should this conflict of interest have been mentioned in the article since he was quoted so extensively?
3. IBPS negotiations are a nationally recognize gold standard for positive, professional collaboration and negotiations. It is "continuous negotiations" rather than the "old union, auto worker type" of negotiations where every contract goes to a last minute crisis point with strikes, work stoppages and hard feelings. These old school negotiations are a relic from the past and terrible for kids and learning. IBPS is how professionals who are striving for excellence should negotiate. This is why our district leadership and teachers union are asked repeatedly to teach other districts across the country how to use IBPS. And this IBPS process is used to resolve all issues with our teachers and not just salaries and benefits. The proof is in the pudding - an award winning, student focused school district - not an adult driven, union controlled school district.
4. The fair share portion that flows to teachers has been mutually agreed upon, but it can be altered if the board so chooses. However, they should have solid logical reasons for doing so. If they do, then the teachers will understand and act accordingly. PUSD allocates approximately 84% of its budget to "people" via salaries and benefits. San Diego Unified is significantly higher that this due, in my judgement, to the power of their unions. Of the 84% allocated to salaries and benefits, teachers receive the 56.45% mentioned with the remainder going to the other bargaining units. When the recession hit, our teachers voluntarily took very large salary rollbacks before most other districts in the county. Why? Because this allocation percentage went down. They could see that. Facts were facts. They acted honorably and took a voluntary cut in pay without striking, griping or other work stoppages. And they increased their class sizes, working much harder for less money. Now, with the state allocating more money to education, teachers absolutely should be receiving more dollars. The 56.45% of the 84% allocated to "salaries and benefits" should be going to teachers not to other unions (due to election results) unless the board has strong justification for doing so. And they don't. They have no reason for doing so except to be punitive against teachers for not supporting them at the ballot box.
5. Our teachers are the best of the best, honorable, hard working and the pride of our community. If they are treated respectfully and with dignity, PUSD will continue to be an award winning district. If board president Beatty, Mr. Sellers and Mrs. O'connor-Ratcliffe, with their vast, collective educational experience of 40 total months, want to come in and break the promises made to our teachers by eliminating IBPS and kissing up to the other unions, they will reap the results and our children's education will suffer. It is that simple.
@Marc Davis Are you trying to shift blame from the teacher's union & PUSD upper Admin (John Collins and his team) who ILLEGALLY NEGOTIATED A CONTRACT, to the union that was the whistle blower?! Shameful!
I find it disingenuous of you to lash out at PSEA and SEIU after you were voted off the board by a community vote. Do you think perhaps it's not the unions pulling strings, but more a public enraged by the Capital Bond debacle that PUSD Board and John Collins engineered: one so egregious that the state of CA quickly moved to make it illegal for others to do?!
I agree that by all public accounts IBPS seems great: if that's the case, though, why doesn't SEIU and PSEA also use that exclusively? Is it truly genuine to tout IBPS as the "gold standard" of negotiations, saying the "old union, auto worker type" negotiations are a relic, when PUSD does NOT negotiate the same with all of their workforce? I have never been a fan of unions, but it strikes me as suspicious that PUSD and others like yourself are arguing for a "gold standard" of negotiations for the all-powerful Teachers Union (a style that at best has apparently caused so much confusion that PUSD Admin and Teacher President have ADMITTED to breaking labor law) while ignoring the other large portion of the district workers. If it's the gold standard, shouldn't ALL workers get the benefit?
It's great that you are commending teachers (who, it should be noted, endorsed your failed re-election bid last fall), but again I find it disingenuous that you fail to mention that ALL PUSD workers took the salary "rollbacks." Positions were lost district-wide, employee workers' had hours cut back, some significantly. I haven't seen anyone suggest teachers do not deserve their pay (IMO it's too little nation-wide, though PFT has successfully negotiated themselves as the 2nd highest-paid teachers in San Diego county, while Superintendent John Collins, in his first job as a district superintendent, has successfully negotiated pay as Top 5 for the entire state of CA).
As for you taking jabs at Beatty, Sellers, and O'connor-Ratcliffe's collective experience :
the collective experience of John Collins and Candy Smiley has yielded a violation of labor law. The collective experience of those two is multiple decades in PUSD, and it has been found that they have broken at least one labor law that we know of: Candy had admitted previously it was her mistake and she didn't believe she had to sunshine using IBPS. As an outside observer, that tells me that Dr. Collins and Ms Smiley, in their collective experience, don't understand negotiations 101: perhaps it's OK for elected Board Members to scrutinize the process further to ensure that everything is on the level.
I appreciate your years of service to the PUSD Board, Mr. Davis: I really do. My children in the district have gotten a great education thanks to the hard work of ALL EMPLOYEES OF PUSD: Board, Admin, teachers, AND classified. When you single out JUST teachers, not only is a disservice to ALL other employees, but it reeks of favoritism: the very thing that the current PUSD is seemingly striving to eliminate. You accuse this issue (the illegal labor charge? the Board not being 100% on board with IBPS?) as a "red herring," to obfuscate the real issue. I propose, as a voting community member of PUSD, that the REAL issue is that the previous PUSD Board, as well as their employee John Collins, made a monumental mistake with the Bod issue. The public has demanded change, and the current board is responding to their voters (NOT to unions, as you pose as what I would consider a "red herring"). There were egregious mistakes made and people need to be held responsible for them.
Great report. Kudos to Beatty, Sellers and O’Connor-Ratcliff for doing a great job in keeping our teachers jobs in mind. We don't want to see more lay-offs and let go our great teachers. Let's support the board and support the teachers!
Thank you Daniel. While I very much appreciate your support, please don't lump Kimberley and I together with Michelle. I am proud to be aligned with Kimberley in her agenda for reform and against the status quo as represented by Andy Patapow and TJ Zane. Michelle, however, is not part of our coalition. Granted, she was supposed to be our third agent for change. Unfortunately, she has proven to be an utter disappointment to both us and the many, many people who worked so hard to get her elected. Why this is only she can answer. I strongly encourage you and others to ask her.
@Charles Sellers This reply is yet another example of what I spoke of last night at the Board Meeting of the PUSD. Sellers simply does not get it. Sound bites surrounding an agenda and this type of display is what has created the beginning of a battle in Poway. You are nothing but a bully Charles and a complete hypocrite. You speak of a conflict of interest in all things invoving IBPS. Your wife is an employee of the District and member of one of the unions seeking a change and demanding more. Your continued rant for everyone sharing a piece of the pie equally, simply put is something that will benefit your wife and you DIRECTLY. Your attempt at baiting Mr. Zane at last nights meeting was petty and unprofessional. Your comments during Item C were inappropriate and unprofessional. You have not a clue of what you speak regarding IBPS. You have never sat in a meeting where IBPS was in use. Your constant rant there is a conflict of interest with who is in attendence and the fact management may benifit from the outcomes is simply a sound bite to elicit support for your personal agenda and paint those involved as corrupt. The conflict lay with you and your involvement in the agenda you are pushing that will benefit you and your wife if successful.
Your clouding the issue of the point here: Ms. Smiley and Dr. Collins violated labor law and PUSD Board is investing to ensure that doesn't happen any more. I honestly don't know all the facts about IBPS, other than the teacher's union touts it as being so great, yet PUSD doesn't employ that method with ALL of their workforce. THAT seems to be the definition of conflict-of-interest/favoritism within PUSD. The issue is compounded with Teacher President admits that IBPS confused her enough that she didn't know she had to Sunshine while negotiating IBPS style.
I live in Poway Unified and have been VERY happy with the relationship between the teachers union and the district. It has meant productivity during some very difficult times. The teachers have taken huge pay cuts to collectively save each other from layoffs. I remember thanking my son's teacher for her sacrifice and her telling me, "I had to, I'd be safe from layoffs because of seniority, but we have some amazing young teachers who would get fired if we didn't take pay cuts. We need to keep those teachers." That type of collective caring for their fellow teachers and the students is what epitomizes Poway USD teachers, and that is why the district and the teachers have gotten along so well. Not because of some backroom dealing that is suggested in this article. The faculty and administration care deeply about the kids, and put their interests first. That's also why Poway USD attracts superior teachers, and in turn why the kids do so well. I'm very happy with the relationship of teachers and administration in my district and I hope that the new regime won't change that relationship. It beats the ridiculous fights that have taken place in San Diego Unified. The teachers have sacrificed for many years now. If things are getting better, I think they deserve any raise we can afford. Thank you teachers!
@Charles Sellers You are way out of line and totally unprofessional in your name calling and pathetic attempts at justifying your actions and fight. What credibility you may have had is in my mind completely gone. As an elected official, representing the PUSD, you owe it to those in this district (EVERY TAXPAYER) to be professional. You represent 32,000+ CHILDREN and you resort to name calling in your attempt to be heard? This is uncalled for and about as pathetic as I have ever witnessed from an elected official at any level.
@Clifton Williams +1 Cliff. Last night there were over 200 teachers in attendance at the board meeting. Sadly the majority coalition on the trustees have conflated 3 issues: IBPS, the issue of compensation for classified staff, and the majority's frustration with Dr. Collins. It would be FAR better if they stopped artificially putting these together for, as Cliff notes, the danger is that we are going to get a poisoned relationship between management and teachers and THAT will be to the detriment of the district.
You are correct, Clif. The teachers have sacrificed. What you fail to acknowledge is that so has everyone else. This includes students, parents, and all other district personnel. To hear PFT tell it, teachers have been arriving to work for the past seven years at a campus that includes only them and the kids. Apparently, no one else bothered to show up and do their jobs for less money like they did. I also agree that they (and everybody else) deserve any raise we can afford. Now just who do you think should be the arbiter of this determination? As President Beatty said last night, "This is about who gets money and who decides who gets money". I'm completely confident that both the voters and the law strongly support the Board making such decisions. PFT wants a hefty retroactive pay raise for themselves and all district administrators, including the Superintendent. PLUS, they want the District to provide millions of dollars for class size reduction. Something their own Union head has stated is not particularly important. Meanwhile the other, lesser paid, half of the workforce has said they will accept a nominal wage increase in favor of re-hiring many of their laid-off brethren so they can all stop doing the work of 1.3 people. Hmmm, two very distinct choices wouldn't you say? Which one do you think most benefits our students, more personnel or merely higher paid personnel? And who do you think should get to make that call, set that priority if you will? The Superintendent and PFT President or the citizen elected School Board? These obviously rhetorical questions illustrate the real issues in this debate, not who does and/or does not love the teachers.
Erik, you made so much sense last night. What happened? Did you go to bed and wake up a Liberal, afraid of the big, bad teachers union? Your perceptions are incorrect on so many counts. There is no majority coalition. There was supposed to be, but there is not. See my comments above to Mr. Sun. The only ones conflating anything are PFT. I made it crystal clear that no Board member, that I know of, has any opposition to using IBPS. It is Ms. Smiley who seems to think that if we uncouple the Superintendent gravy train from the process it will no longer work. See, no conflating. IBPS yes, me-too no. As for the compensation of Classified staff, they're not even a part of this conversation. Their contracts have both been settled and, while they also have me-too clauses, they've made it very clear that they would much rather have staff restoration than pay hikes. Either way, it's now out of their hands. See, again no conflation. What is in question, however, is just whose hands those decisions are in. Are they in the hands of King John and Queen Candy, as they seem to think. Or are they in the hands of the duly elected Board of Education. If Madam Smiley were smart, which I am told she is, she would ditch the albatross that Dr. Collins has become to her cause, lest it go down in flames with him. If IBPS really has nothing to do with him, which I believe it does not, why take the risk? See there, anti-conflation espoused. The only reason I can think of for not doing so is if she really believes she won't get as good a deal without him at the bargaining table. But that would raise issues of self-dealing and we're trying hard to pretend those don't exist already.
@Charles Sellers Honestly I am a bit at a loss here. Perhaps in the three minutes at the microphone I failed to adequately express myself. That is my responsibility. Just so we are clear.
A) . One of the biggest REASONS our district works is a healthy and constructive relationship with our district teachers. Among the MYRIAD of advantages is that our district has not been torn apart by the politics that ARE commonplace in numerous districts in our state. It has allowed the district to be MUCH more nimble in hundreds of different ways. I am sure that President Smiley would be happy to walk you through those. In my mind among the biggest are pay differential in the contract, management-centric transfer rules, a unique mechanism of addressing teachers who need help in teaching, and the ability of the district to introduce programs like D39, Valley's immersion program, and the academies. It concerns me that you do not appreciate than in many other districts each of those programs would have been subject to adversarial bargaining over changes in working conditions.
B) I believe a cornerstone of that positive relationship is the IBPS. It provides a means of getting various stakeholders to agree on "the facts" and build trust.
C) It is destructive for a trustee of the Poway Unified School District to post, on a public web site, derogatory names toward the PFT President. Such comments make it harder, not easier, to reach agreement and maintain collaborative working relationships.
D) Your Comments to Cliff Williams and the article from the Classified staff run counter that staff and IBPS are not coupled. You note ..."Meanwhile the other, lesser paid, half of the workforce" and, in your opinion, the teacher hold that " no one else bothered to show up and do their jobs for less money like they did". Again, bargain over the fair share in the contract. I tend to believe that this will cause more harm than good but it is, again, a simple "fix"
E) A simple reason (one I would disagree with but for which there is solid justification) of linking Senior management compensation to the teachers is that it again avoids destructive conflict. Have you observed a district in which management received salary increases that were larger than teachers. I have. That destroys districts and as former trustee Davis notes, is a step toward an adult centric rather than kids centric district.
E) Finally in respect to (your words) "King Collins" I might suggest that your first job as a trustee in a district in which I am a taxpayer is to oversee the job performance of the Superintendent. Publiclly calling him names, in my personal opinion, makes that more difficult.
I am not a liberal nor did I wake up one. I understand, however, that teachers unions have an important role are a "fact on the ground". You can have a district that is run by them (bad). You can have a district which spends endless (and ultimately fruitless in this state) hours fighting with them. Or you can, as has been a hallmark of PUSD and a key reason for our success, work with them as partners.
@Erik Bruvold @Charles Sellers Thank you Erik for your words and understanding. You have nailed many of the issues. In my 33 plus years of public service, I have not witnessed an elected official act in such a manner. We have had some doozies in San Diego, but I cannot remember anyone as unprofessional and caustic as Charles. He reminds me of a bully on the play ground who attempts to intimidate everyone around to get what he wants.Very sad and appears to be setting the stage for a long four years.
@Charles Sellers "Lesser paid" employees. This is what this is about. Your wife, one of the "Lesser Paid" employees wanting more of the pie. To effect this change, target the Superintendent and his cabinet and a process that has worked for almost 20 years. A process by the way, you have never participated in and have no training in. A process that works. You insist you are supportive of IBPS yet you wage war against the Superintendent and Teachers. Yes Charles, when you wage war with the President of the Teachers Union.... YOO WAGE WAR WITH TEACHERS!!!! As I said last night Charles, "Actions speak louder than words. Show teachers you support them." They are all waiting.
Yes. The process that will get our children in $1 billion debt thanks to the Bond debacle.
Yes. The process that PUSD Admin & teachers broke labor law administering
People scream "this is the best way: we've been doing it for decades," yet PUSD does not do this with all workforce. How is it superior if the district uses this for only 1/3 of the labor representation?! Not only that, but has apparently been employed via illegal methods (or at least illegally not sunshined recently).
Jeepers Steve, exaggerate much? I sincerely apologize for my flippant characterization of Dr. Collins and President Smiley as King and Queen. It was my inelegant attempt at referencing the "imperial" way in which I feel they "rule" over the District. While I still believe this to be true, it was uncalled for and beneath the stature of a public official, as you so rightly point out. But does this really put me in the company of Duke Cunningham, Ralph Inzunza or Charles Lewis, each of whom did or would have gone to prison? Seems like a stretch. But, in any case, you're right about the royalty crack. It was wrong, I shouldn't have done it and I won't do it again. --- CHARLES SELLERS.