In joint message, APT and PUSD say negotiations will continue despite road bumps

Julie Reichle

School Board President Veronica Anderson Thigpen and Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Hawn listen to remarks by teachers prior to a closed door session in December 2023.

APT and PUSD sent the following email to community members on April 19 as labor negotiations continue to drag on:

Dear PUSD Families and Community Members, 

On Wednesday, the Superintendent, two Board members and several APT union leaders met for a clarifying discussion. This meeting was productive and both sides learned more about the other’s perspective in ways that we believe will facilitate moving forward to a settlement. 

Board members and the Superintendent learned that for teachers, the impact of the April 16 community statement was very different from what was intended. The intent of the statement was to communicate where we are currently in the labor bargaining process and to convey our desire to reach agreement as soon as possible with a deal that shows how much we value our district’s teachers. However, some of what was said came across as blaming teachers for the failure of Mediation and as implying that teachers had not moved from their original ask for 8.22% COLA. This caused distress to teachers and misunderstandings in the community. 

At the same time, APT came to understand that there was a genuine misunderstanding about what ended Mediation that resulted in the Board and the Superintendent believing it was unilaterally initiated by the union. 

Both sides now see more clearly how much the rigid and secretive nature of the Mediation process has made clear communication between the groups and with the community unusually challenging. Both sides regret any misunderstandings.

The Board and the Superintendent want to affirm that APT has indeed come to the bargaining table in good faith, and (while the rules of Mediation prevent us from being specific) that they have moved dramatically from their original 8.22% ask.

APT wants to affirm that the Board and the Superintendent have been transparent about the state of the district budget and that they recognize the real financial need of teachers and have been exploring productive solutions to raise compensation. 

Thanks to our conversation on Wednesday, both sides were also able to gain clarity on some key non-monetary issues that are still to be resolved, and we were able to gain a better understanding of why these issues matter to each team.

As we await the formation of a Fact-Finding panel, the process allows us to continue talking and working on a deal. At our meeting on Wednesday, we agreed that both sides would very much like to resume bargaining face-to-face as soon as possible in hopes of reaching agreement more quickly than Fact-Finding would allow. And the Board has scheduled a closed session meeting this Saturday to discuss negotiations to ensure these face-to-face meetings with APT can resume as early as next week. 

Moving forward, both sides want to affirm our trust in each other and our deep desire to reach a resolution. 

Veronica Anderson Thigpen, President, Piedmont Board of Education
Jennifer Hawn, Superintendent, Piedmont Unified School District
Elise Marks, President, Association of Piedmont Teachers (APT)

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