Doppe to be MUSD’s director of educational services

MARTINEZ, Calif. – Alhambra High School principal Tom Doppe will be the Martinez Unified School District’s director of Educational Services, a revised version of the position vacated when Audrey Lee resigned.

The district’s Board of Education agreed Monday night with Superintendent C.J. Cammack’s recommendation to rewrite the job description, then to place Doppe in that post starting in July.

It also approved for filing the second interim report on the current budget, which indicates that unless changes are made, the district’s General Fund expenditures are about $2 million greater than its revenues, and in a few years, the district would be unable to meet its mandated level of reserves.

But the panel expressed some frustration with ongoing negotiations with area labor groups associated with the Building Trades Board to establish a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for larger-scale construction projects.

In introducing his recommendation for the revised job description, Cammack said the director of Educational Services would be in charge of professional development instruction for teachers as well as curriculum for students.

Once the Board gave its unanimous approval to the change, Cammack introduced his choice for the job, who also got unanimous support from the panel.

Doppe joined the Alhambra High School staff in 2011, when he initially was named assistant principal.

Before joining the AHS faculty, he was a teacher at his high school alma mater, Concord High School where he taught English for seven years, had been a department chairperson and had been the coordinator of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges report team.

Doppe expressed his appreciation for the appointment as well as the faith MUSD had in him five years ago, when he became the AHS principal. “I won’t forget that,” he promised. As hard as he worked for the high school, he now would work for the rest of the district’s schools, he said.

When Assistant Superintendent Helen Rossi gave the Board a look at the District’s operations budget, the General Fund, she showed that not much has changed since her last report, although anticipated revenues appear to be slightly better, at $42,452,906 than previously expected, at $42,247,879.

But expenses keep rising, too, she said. In her first interim report, they were expected to be $43,862,972, and more recently are expected to be $44,250,050 – $2 million more than the District is taking in.

Still, each year that ends with at least 3 percent in reserves remaining in the General Fund, the District can have a “positive” if not “qualified” budget status. However, the District’s reserves are declining, from an expected nearly 14 percent at the end of this fiscal year, to a little more than 9 percent next fiscal year and 3.61 percent in Fiscal Year 2019-20. Should the trend continue and the reserves drop below 3 percent, county and state officials will step in to make corrections.

“The challenge is to balance the budget,” Rossi said, which will be harder since increased funding to schools will be based on cost of living adjustments (COLAs), which are not expected to cover rising costs.

The Board approved the report, and several members liked Rossi’s recommendation that Cammack form a Superintendent’s Budget Advisory Board to help address the deficit.

Discussion of the PLA – no action was taken Monday – revealed frustrations some Boardmembers were having after several meetings between the Building Trades Council and the District, led by Cammack and a subcommittee of Board President Jonathan Wright and Boardmember John Fuller.

In 2017, several labor organizations had argued for a PLA, which would require nonunion construction workers to pay union dues but would prevent any work shutdowns during larger projects underwritten by Measure R bond money.

A PLA is a pre-hire collective bargaining unit that establishes other terms and conditions of employment for specific construction projects, and contractors hired through bidding must abide by the terms.

The District has spent as much on negotiations on PLA terms as it would to furnish several classrooms, Fuller said Monday.

The trade organization wants the threshold for a PLA to become effective to be $1 million, and don’t want any “carve outs,” or exceptions to the contract.

Cammack said the district has said it wants a $2 million threshold and the option for carveouts.

There’s also a disagreement about hiring and apprenticing District students and Martinez residents, with the District seeking at least half of those working on its buildings to be from those sources.

The trades, which Fuller said members of which had spoken at length about making sure Martinez residents and Alhambra High School students jobs, want that percentage reduced to 30.

When the District decides to use modular construction on a project, certain longtime employees of the vendor should be allowed to do the work, the District has proposed. The trades council disagreed, but hasn’t made a counter offer.

The District wants trades organizations to contribute financially to its Career Technical Education (CTE), but the trades council disagrees. The two sides see more eye to eye on providing speakers, making field trips available and mentoring a small number of students, participating in career fairs.

Attorney Jolene Kramer said the two sides are closer than Cammack’s report sounded, and urged continuing the talks.

“We’re having amicable negotiations,” she said, indicating the parties need to meet about two times more to wrap up the deal. “It’s good for the District and good for the community.”

Wright urged Cammack to consider lowering the construction threshold for the PLA to become effective, but he, too, wanted more former students to be hired.

“I want to see Alhambra graduates get jobs,” he said, “and Martinez residents need jobs.”

He said the district’s schools are preparing students to get jobs, and as for extending the PLA, he said, “Look at Measure R as a dress rehearsal….If it goes well, a future Board could extend it.”

But he sought flexibility for the Board regarding modular campuses, especially those “in dire need,” when the District needs to keep its projects on or below budgeted costs.

He urged creativity in getting them employed, saying he had heard apprenticeships are not getting qualified candidates. He also wanted creativity in union support of students’ career technical education.

He didn’t want negotiations to drag on. “I’d like this done as soon as possible.” He also wanted a report after the next meeting with the trades council.

But some Boardmembers were not happy. Kathi McLaughlin called the trades’ failure to contribute to the district’s CTE “a little bait and switch.”

“I’m uncomfortable with no end date,” she said about the trades’ preference that the PLA isn’t limited just to Measure R projects. She worried about “tying a future Board’s hands,” and said she felt “backed into a corner.

Clerk Bobbi Horack said locals should be hired “absolutely to the greatest extent,” and how modular vendors’ employees are handled needs to be addressed. Like Wright, she wanted an update after the next negotiations meeting.

Fuller said union negotiators are worried that this agreement might impact PLAs in other cities. “I don’t care,” he said, explaining his focus was on MUSD and it students.

He disagreed with the trades council about what percentage of Martinez residents and former MUSD students would be hired.

“It was about ‘putting food on the table,’” he said, recalling last year’s public comments by union representatives. “It was about protecting 94553,” Martinez’s zip code. If the District concurs with the trade council, construction workers could be brought in from Brentwood, and they would be considered “local,” he said.

“It’s no partnership – its theft,” he said of the negotiations. “My recommendation is we have gone as far as we can,” and if the trades council won’t agree, “let’s end this.”

Vice President Deidre Siguenza said she supported crafting the PLA, because it assured the District of getting skilled labor on its construction projects, and because she thought it was good for the community.

“I’d like to continue discussions,” she said.

She agreed the PLA originally was for Measure R projects. “We talk about building relationships. We have that opportunity.” And Measure R projects are coming with such hefty price tags, likely most would be greater than either the trade group’s or the District’s threshold.

She also had no problem with dropping talks on the carve-outs. “That’s more time and effort,” she said.

But she also urged “local” to mean Martinez and MUSD graduates. “These are District projects. We should value the diploma.”

As for prefabricated schools, she urged both the unions and the District to work for the best for MUSD students at reasonable costs. And unions should be willing partners in supporting career technical education, she said.

After hearing his colleagues, even Fuller sounded more conciliatory. “I hope we can create a partnership.

The Board agreed with its updated safety plan, noting it could be changed if improved security measures are endorsed, and renewed its pact with Rising Sun Energy Center and the city of Martinez for a California Youth Employment Program that promotes local conservation.

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