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Albemarle County schools to draft union contract

The Albemarle County School Board has directed the school division’s Superintendent Matthew Haas and staff to draft a collective bargaining resolution.

In a 5-2 vote at a budget work session on Thursday night, the School Board made the historic decision that, if the resolution passes, would make Albemarle one of only a handful of school divisions in Virginia to give its staff a collective bargaining contract.

School board members Jonno Alcaro and Kate Acuff voted against the measure.

“We look forward to the resolution and the continued work we’ll do in partnership with our teachers,” the board’s Chair Katrina Callsen said during Thursday’s work session.

There was some confusion after the vote, however, over just how much teachers would be involved.

Mary McIntyre, vice president of the Albemarle Education Association union, told The Daily Progress on Thursday the School Board’s motion is “specifically cutting us out of the process.”

“I know it will be done in collaboration with the AEA,” Callsen told The Daily Progress on Friday.

McIntyre said Friday she was still not confident teachers would have a voice in the decision-making.

“The Albemarle School Board passed a motion to direct the superintendent and staff to draft a resolution for bargaining without any involvement of the workers who are petitioning for bargaining rights,” she said on Friday. “While this is potentially a step forward, we are concerned that there is no explicit requirement for the AEA to be included in a collaborative process or for the end goal to be a mutually agreed upon resolution.”

McIntyre said the school division should clearly outline its intent in an amended motion.

“Around the state, when workers were shut out of the development process, weak resolutions have been the result,” she said.

In October of last year, the Arlington Education Association said there had been a communication breakdown after the school board there authorized collective bargaining in May.

Arlington’s school district was the second in Virginia to authorize such bargaining after Richmond.

“The collective bargaining resolution that passed in May does not create a fair process,” Arlington Career Center employee Javonnia Hill said at a school board meeting on Oct. 13. “It is not what you thought it would be.”

Albemarle County schools spokesman Phil Giaramita said it is still too early to tell whether and how the local union would be involved in drafting a contract.

“We’re in the first 24 hours of deciding next steps and have not yet finalized any decisions on how best to meet the Board’s direction,” Giaramita told The Daily Progress on Friday.

The Albemarle school board’s vote on Thursday night came hours after the Charlottesville School Board voted unanimously to give the city union collective bargaining rights. The city resolution was the result of almost a year of negotiations between the Charlottesville Education Association and the school board. In May 2022, Charlottesville directed a group that included Superintendent Royal Gurley and union members to draft a resolution.

Just Wednesday, Callsen told the Albemarle County Board of Supervisors to expect a resolution of some kind to pass.

In February, the Albemarle Education Association made its second bid for collective bargaining rights after the school board voted against a measure in May 2022 that would have allowed most division employees to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. At the time, county school board members said the state law allowing collective bargaining did not provide sufficient guidance for how the process would work.

After Thursday night’s vote, Callsen said the county should expect a resolution sometime in the summer.

“We don’t want to drag our feet,” Callsen said.

Source: www.dailyprogress.com

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