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Negotiating for Safety

Dear Novato Community, 

Thank you so much for your support during this stressful and difficult time. 

We, the teachers in Novato want to take a moment to explain the recent news regarding our hybrid and reentry negotiations with NUSD. First and foremost, we love the children in Novato and want nothing more than to support them through this difficult time and continue to provide continuity of education. We also want what's safest for them, the community and NUSD teachers and staff, but unfortunately the District has not come to the table with that same attitude. Since the Summer, we have been negotiating safety protocols and what the different stages of reopening would look like. All along the way we have put forth proposals to keep everyone safe, like 6 feet of social distancing and stable cohorts, and the Distinct has pushed back every inch of the way. 

As the school year began, we continued to fight for safe school reopenings because we know the value of in-person learning and how important it is to get students back into the classroom. But we also have to keep in mind the health and safety of the whole community as our schools are at the center of that wonderful community. So we went to the negotiations table day after day, many times right after working an 8-10 hour day already, to continue to advocate for safe working conditions for teachers and safe learning conditions for our students. 

On September 25th, we reached a Tentative Agreement with the District and we took it to our members for a vote because we believe in a transparent democratic process. A majority of our members voted down the Tentative Agreement for three primary reasons:


1. The mixed cohorts at the secondary level were not safe. Students would be mixing throughout their day, exposing students, teachers, staff and parents to an overwhelming number of contacts every single day. 


2. Special Education needed specific language around assessments and the unique needs of their programs. Unfortunately, there was insufficient language in the Tentative Agreement around those issues. 


3. Teachers and other certificated staff were not able to see the School Site-Specific Protection Plans prior to the vote.

Throughout the negotiations process, we made our position regarding small and stable cohorts at every level very clear because we know that the lack of stable cohorts can result in a situation that is unsafe –, for students and families even more so than teachers. It is not that we don’t “want to go back” –- it is that we need to be safe, and we need to know our students and families will be safe too. 

When we returned to the negotiations table with the District to discuss these remaining safety issues, the NUSD bargaining team disrespectfully lashed out. Their chief negotiator told our bargaining team that any future agreement would be worse than before and we knew they meant it when we saw their Last Best and Final Offer. Once again the language around cohorts was unsafe, the bell schedules were removed making it impossible for any of our teachers to know what kind of schedule they were agreeing to, and the staggered reentry without clear safety protocols made teachers nervous about keeping themselves and their students safe.  


After much deliberation amongst our union leadership team and our members, and after consultation with legal counsel, we took a vote on the District's Last Best and Final Offer. Once again, citing safety concerns, a majority of our members voted down the offer. We notified NUSD of our decision and asked them to continue to engage in negotiations so we can come to a safe agreement for all. But NUSD has decided to file for impasse with the Public Employee Relation Board and will attempt to impose their unsafe Last Best and Final Offer on us anyways. 


We hoped to be partners with NUSD to reopen our amazing schools with all the safety protocols in place so that EVERYONE can come to school and be safe. But NUSD has shown that they are not interested in safety, that they don’t want to work with teachers and staff who are on the front lines everyday, and that they rather bully their way to reopening than negotiate in good faith. In the next few weeks we’ll not only be filing Unfair Labor Practices with the Public Employee Relation Board, but also asking our members, parents, and the community at large to take action to ensure the safety of the community as a whole. We hope you continue to support the safe reopening of all of our schools and that you join us in taking action.


Be safe, be strong, be heard. 
Mariah Fisher, NFT President
Telephone 415-897-0811

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