TUHSD Pursues Contract Negotiations



(Ethan Swope)

By Marina Furbush

The Tamalpais Federation of Teachers (TFT), which represents the Tamalpais Union High School District’s (TUHSD) teachers and counselors, has withdrawn a filing for impasse over contract negotiations. On February 9 TFT issued a press release that detailed concerns with the state of negotiations and charged Superintendent David Yoshihara with engaging in regressive bargaining. Regressive bargaining occurred when a party makes a proposal that is less valuable than that party’s previous proposal. TFT originally claimed in the press release that the superintendent unexpectedly withdrew the original offer after the union indicated they would accept it “claiming the District did not have sufficient funds to cover the ongoing costs,” and announced that they would seek the assistance of a state mediator.


“In general, I’m not saying this is what occurred here, but in general a district or a labor group can make an offer that is in fact regressive if the conditions warrant that,” Yoshihara said before the union withdrew their filing. Negotiations began last May and teachers and counselors have been working without a contract since August.


TFT decided not to move forward with a mediator because their main concern, a proposal that would increase out-of-pocket healthcare costs for teachers, was discarded by negotiators after a TUHSD board meeting on February 15. However, the issue of healthcare has not been completely resolved. “We’re all concerned about the increasing cost of health,” TFT President Cory DeMars said. “What has been resolved is instead of coming with an absolute cap that they weren’t able to bend on, they removed that and instead agreed to ‘let’s work together to try to address this issue of health.’”

Seven community members sent letters to the board between February 9 and the February 28 board meeting, all detailing their desire for teachers to receive higher pay and/or fully-funded healthcare. “Being a teacher is difficult work with long hours that extend well beyond the school day hours,” wrote Fairfax parent Sarah McKereghan. “Our educators need to be able to thrive in order to be effective teachers and part of that is having good healthcare and being paid competitive wage that reflects the cost of living in Marin County.”

Another concern raised by the press release was that the proposal devalued teachers and counselors. DeMar said in the press release that Yoshihara’s new, and what they considered regressive, proposal showed that the district didn’t “value our work.”

“Their proposals were not suggesting that they were placing as much emphasis on appreciating the work we all do, but instead were placing more emphasis on just making sure that their budget was sound,” DeMars later elaborated. “And our position was that you could actually do both. We’re not asking for anything that’s going to bankrupt the district. So it was more an issue of priorities, and I think that’s changed a bit now that the board made the decision to remove the healthcare cap.”


One issue illuminated by these contract negotiations is the impact the former TUHSD administration had on the district. “I do think we continue to, whether it’s build or rebuild, the trust from the prior administration…My understanding is the district was in a difficult place a few years ago and continues to try to move on from there, and so that’s a process,” Yoshihara said.


The memory of former superintendent Laurie Kimbrel also remains with TFT. “We had a rough time for about six or seven years with a previous superintendent. It caused some damage within the district, it chipped away at trust, it chipped away at people feeling safe, it chipped away at the relationship that we want to have with the district office, that being one where we work

together rather than an adversarial one,” DeMars said. “So there was a lot of ground to make up for when the new superintendent came in. And I think even though we hit this rough spot and we had to actually file for impasse, I think now that that part of it is over, I think there’s a renewed effort on the district’s part to indeed continue to build trust and work together rather than work at odds with each other.”

Yoshihara agrees with the sentiment. “The district hopes to reach what we consider a fair and equitable agreement that values our teachers and supports the excellent teaching and learning that we know takes place every day,” Yoshihara said. “So we’re hopeful for that, we would welcome and want to continue the dialogue with our teachers and counselors.”