County Office of Education Reaches Agreement with School Association

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(Jeff Heyman, Photograher)
Orinda’s Miramonte High School, which is part of the Acalanes Union High School District, is one of the schools operating under the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) and had an enrollment of 1,182 students for the 2020-’21 school year. CCCOE recently approved a 5% raise for teachers and classified employees.

    A strike between the Contra Costa County School Education Association (CCCSEA) and the Contra Costa County Office of Education (CCCOE) has been averted with an agreement to give certificated CCCSEA members a 5% raise in wages.
    In the wake of this victory, the CCCSEA continues to advocate for smaller class sizes, adequate curriculum, mental health resources and safety of both students and instructors in county schools.
    “We essentially would like smaller class sizes, not only for safety for the students, but safety for our staff,” former CCCSEA President Christina Morabe said, citing incidents in which students and staff have been injured in the classroom.
    The CCCOE, which serves over 176,000 students in the ninth largest student population in the state, including the county juvenile hall, “work[s] with the most vulnerable students in the county,” added Morabe.
    Schools are not being provided with the curriculum instructors want to teach, she said, and there is a lack of adequate supplies.
    “We have to make sure we have the resources and the manpower to help these students,” Morabe said, noting students at the juvenile hall have asked for more mental health support. “We absolutely need more mental health resources.”
    The pandemic created a two-year interruption to student learning, with students missing “a good portion” of their education as a result, Morabe said. She noted the need to backtrack to get students where they need to be academically.
    “We don’t have the curriculum to teach them,” she said.
    In an Aug. 11 press release, a livable wage for educators was listed among the issues the school education association negotiated with the county office of education. The agreement between the two was reached Aug. 31 and gives a retroactive raise to CCCSEA members, dating back to July 1, 2021, according to the CCCOE.
    The county office settled at a 5% salary increase for both bargaining units, said Contra Costa County Superintendent of Schools Lynn Mackey. This includes CCCSEA and Public Employees Union, Local One.
    Mackey echoed Morabe’s statement about working with a vulnerable student population, noting class sizes will be reevaluated next year.
    “We will relook at those issues again and bring those to the table,” said Mackey.
    As for the recent negotiations, Mackey said, “I feel good that we settled, and I know we will continue to work together in the future.”
    According to the Contra Costa County Office of Education’s website, its 700 COE educators and support staff, as well as the county superintendent, help support 18 school districts by providing “special and alternative education, supplemental programs, budgetary oversight, technical assistance and internet access.”
    The CCCOE serves incarcerated and homeless students, foster youth and students with physical or emotional challenges. The Mt. McKinley School at John A. Davis Juvenile Hall and the Contra Costa Adult School – which operates in three jails – are also run by the county office of education.
    In its 2020-21 annual report to the community, CCCOE states that it served just over 200 students at its eight special education sites, as well as more than 6,500 students in 22 high schools, including court and community schools, with its Regional Occupation Program (ROP). The ROP program “focuses on providing high-quality [career and technical education] pathways.”
    Acalanes Union High School District and Orinda Union School District (OUSD) are among those served by the CCCOE, with the 2020-’21 school year seeing 5,535 students enrolled in the high school district and 2,478 students enrolled in OUSD.
    Acalanes offers various resources for students with disabilities, such as an adult transition program and Workability I, which offers students the opportunity to shadow at jobs as well as paid and non-paid work experience.
    OUSD’s four elementary schools and one intermediate school each have a resource specialist program to help students, with services such as speech-language therapy, occupational therapy and psychological services.
    Morabe noted common ground exists in wanting the best for the students.
    “Our focus is making sure students get the best education they can get,” she said. “And the best resources they can get.”

Andrea Madison can be reached at drea.madison.05@gmail.com.

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