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ACPS wants to come to a collective bargaining agreement with staff by the end of 2024

Students get on school buses at Alexandria City High School’s Minnie Howard Campus prompted an evacuation and early dismissal, Dec. 10, 2021. (staff photo by James Cullum)

Alexandria City Public Schools officials want to reach a collective bargaining agreement by the end of this year, and a resolution to approve the process will be presented to the School Board next week.

The draft collective bargaining resolution was reviewed last Thursday by the Board’s Collective Bargaining Committee, and Board Chair Michelle Rief said that the school system has a goal of coming to an agreement with staff by the end of this year. Such a deadline means that any major changes to staff benefits and compensation would be realized with next year’s passage of the Fiscal Year 2026 budget.

“Just to be clear, we are looking and doing this, depending on how it goes, this year in 2024,” Rief said last Thursday night.

In October, the Education Association of Alexandria (EAA) formally started the process by sending the Board an employee certification submission on behalf of all licensed teachers. That submission gave the Board 120 days to adopt a collective bargaining resolution with a deadline of Feb. 13. The Board will be presented with the resolution for adoption at its upcoming meeting on Thursday, Feb. 8, and a full board action is expected at the March 21 school board meeting.

“This is something that can go really well or really not well,” said Board Member Meagan Alderton. “I think we are on the path of doing really well, and so we need to continue that path and be deliberate and intentional about everything we do.”

ACPS is looking for a three-year agreement that covers four topics, which have yet to be identified. Those topics could include wages, benefits and terms and conditions of employment, and every subsequent negotiation can include the addition of two additional topics, according to the draft resolution.

The school system is currently experiencing a staffing crisis, and the proposed $374 million fiscal year 2025 budget provides a full step increase and a 2% market rate adjustment for eligible staff. It does not, however, provide a cost of living increase.

ACPS middle school teacher David Paladin Fernandez has been vocal in asking the Board and city leaders for wage increases for staff.

“Educator retention and pay are serious issues, and I want to see ACPs leadership making bold choices,” he said.

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. 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 fiscal year 2024 budget.

Dawn Lucas has been EAA president for nearly a decade and said that the organization will be tapping into its membership in the coming days to elect a bargaining representative and identify bargaining issues.

“I would have never thought this would happen, for us to have collective bargaining rights in the state of Virginia,” Lucas said. “When that happened, we knew
that we could possibly be on the path to come into this day.”

The draft resolution says the following:

Whereas, in April 2020, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation permitting local governing bodies, including school boards to enter into collective bargaining agreements with respect to any matter relating to employment provided by the public body adopts an ordinance or resolution authorizing as much; and

Whereas, pursuant to section 40.1 Dash five 7.2 C of Virginia code, any school board that has not adopted a resolution providing for collective bargaining may receive any employee certification was the federal majority of employees who self identify as a bargaining unit, and within 120 days of receipt of such employee certification shall take a vote on whether to adopt or not adopt a resolution to provide for collective bargaining; and

Whereas, the Code of Virginia does not require or any school board to adopt the resolution authorizing collective bargaining; and

Whereas, on October 16 2023, the school board clerk received an employee certification submission from the Education Association of Alexandria on behalf of all licensed teachers; and

Whereas, the school board has 120 days from the date, the certification was submitted, or until February 13, 2024, to take a vote to adopt or not adopt a resolution to provide for collective bargaining,

Now, therefore, be it resolved that the Alexandria City School Board hereby agreed to adopt this resolution authorizing collective bargaining by licensed teachers and any other school board employees deemed appropriate by the Alexandria City School Board; and

Be it further resolved that the Alexandria City School Board shall adopt a collective bargaining resolution no later than 60 days after the adoption of this resolution; and

Be it further resolved, that the execution of this resolution is conclusive evidence of Alexandria School Board’s approval of this action.

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