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It could be two years before ACPS comes to a collective bargaining agreement, says Superintendent

ACPS headquarters and clock (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

It might take some time, but Alexandria City Public Schools has opened the door to collective bargaining with its employees.

On Thursday, the School Board conducted its first work session on the topic, and Superintendent Melanie Kay-Wyatt says it could be two years before the issue comes to the Board for a vote. The Board has to develop a collective bargaining resolution (CBR) with staff representatives, who will iron out wage and other potential increases through a long process.

“It depends on how fast we adopt our CBR,” Kay-Wyatt said. “It could be a year, it could be a year-and-a-half, but I think we have to also watch the budget timeline. It could be two years. We hope that’s not the case.”

It took Alexandria nearly two years to negotiate collective bargaining for police and firefighters, who both saw increases in pay budgeted into the city’s recently approved fiscal year 2024 budget. Alexandria was first Northern Virginia jurisdiction to pass the measures for employee rights and wages in 2021, after former Governor Ralph Northam announced statewide implementation of the law in 2020.

“I’m really glad that we are getting ourselves moving on this conversation,” Board Member Kelly Carmichael Booz said. “It is long overdue.”

ACPS approved funds to develop an official ACPS plan and policy for collective bargaining with employees in its recently approved budget.

“The first thing to do is identify who are the interested parties and stakeholders in this whole endeavor,” said Steve Ray, an attorney with Isler Dare, P.C. who is advising ACPS. “The CBR is going to need to address what are the rights and authorities of ACPS… the rights of the employees’ exclusive representative, the scope of the bargaining, and how to resolve impasses, resolutions, and procedures.”

Dawn Lucas, president of the Education Association of Alexandria, said that she’s been looking to start this work for a long time.

“We look forward to working collaboratively with ACPS as it establishes collective bargaining rights.,” Lucas said. “We want the opportunity to collectively bargain for working conditions, forced labor, and things of that nature.”

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ATC tutors work with one child in kindergarten, first, or second grade in Alexandria public schools who need extra help with reading. Tutors meet with their Book Buddy 1-2 times each week for 30 minutes October-May at school, during school hours. Many struggling readers only receive one-on-one instruction through this program, and it makes all the difference. Last year, ATC served 195 children, of whom 82% ended the year reading on grade level and 96% made substantial reading gains. But the need is great, and we are still seeing learning lags from the pandemic.

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