A memorandum of understanding covering the 2020-21 academic and work year in a COVID-19 environment was not approved by the Antelope Valley Union High School District Board, as Victoria Ruffin and Amanda Parrell voted no.

LANCASTER — Antelope Valley Union High School District Board members Victoria Ruffin and Amanda Parrell rejected a negotiated memorandum of understanding between the District and California School Employees Association Chapter 612 regarding the upcoming academic and work year in a COVID-19 environment.

“This does not look like something a unit member would agree to,” Ruffin said.

The memorandum of understanding failed to pass on a 2-2 vote. Board Clerk Jill McGrady and trustee John Rush supported the memorandum of understanding. So did student trustee Elijah Johnson.

The agreement covered the 2020-21 school year. It set forth guidelines to support the continuity of learning while mitigating the spread of COVID-19 by following state and county health department guidelines.

The memorandum covered adherence to health guidelines, safety conditions of employment, daily cleaning and disinfecting, and temporary change of duties.

“The requirement the District provide continued education of our students, and the manner in which this is accomplished, during the 2020-(21) year will require flexibility given the impact of COVID-19 and the possible need to fluctuate between instructional models of instruction (at-school learning [blended] and at-home learning),” the memorandum said.

“Who is all included in the California School Employees Association collective bargaining unit?” Ruffin asked.

CSEA Chapter 612 is the local chapter for the district’s classified employees.

“This is the CSEA, our local negotiating team,” Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Services Brett Neal explained.

“For the record and discussion for the public, can you list who within our district is all included within the California School Employees Association collective bargaining unit?” Ruffin said.

Neal said CSEA Chapter President Karen White.

“No, I’m not saying that,” Ruffin interrupted. “I’m talking about, like, the positions. Give examples.”

Neal explained the CSEA Chapter 12 members are classified employees that include grounds workers as well as clerks and campus security.

Ruffin asked who participated in negotiating the terms of the agreement.

“Well, the members of the negotiating team for the California School Employees Association as well as working with the District negotiating team,” Neal said.

“And who are they?” Ruffin asked.

Neal explained the District’s negotiating team includes himself, Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Brian Hawkins, the director of Human Resources, Director of Attendance and a principal.

“How often did you all meet?” Ruffin said.

Neal said they met four times.

“Was there a strategic plan that was shared? If so, would you all provide that strategic plan for review by the Board?” Ruffin said.

Neal replied he was not sure what Ruffin meant by a “strategic plan.”

“This is the development of part of that overall reopening of the schools as we look to reopen the schools, and this is based on how the reopening would affect our classified employees,” Neal said.

Ruffin sought to clarify the third paragraph of the agreement.

“The parties have a shared commitment in providing a workplace and instructional programs that support the continuity of learning while mitigating the spread of COVID-19 by following the guidelines established by both state and county health departments,” the third paragraph of the agreement said.

“What exactly are the ‘quote unquote’ ‘workplace and instructional programs’ that you reference in the CSEA has committed to supporting via continued learning?” Ruffin asked.

Neal explained it references the district’s workplace conditions and the instructional programs they provide students.

“Can you be specific about the workplace conditions? I heard comments from, specifically school psychologists, that were more detailed. This sounds very vague,” said Ruffin, who has twice voted against pay raises for school psychologists.

Ruffin added: “When you just discussed who met, it sounds like it was all management-level people that met to develop this MOU. So did you talk any of the actual unit members to see what workplace conditions they discussed with you all that concerns to the unit members?”

“Yes, we did,” Neal said.

Ruffin asked what the workplace conditions are.

Neal said many of the concerns brought forward by the union are reflected in the memorandum of understanding.

Ruffin asked what CSEA members will do to support the instructional delivery model.

The district developed its at-home learning instructional delivery model for 2020-21 school year, approved by the Board at a special July 17 meeting, over several weeks and meetings with classified employees, teachers, administrators and parents.

“This MOU specifically addresses how we are going to reopen. The standpoint reflects upon our CSEA members,” Neal said, adding they are still negotiating with the Antelope Valley Teachers Association.

“Right, but you’re asking this Board to have a sense of accountability for this memorandum of understanding to blindly agree to something that we cannot see,” Ruffin said.

Ruffin said the District cannot agree to provide unit members with personal protective equipment such as disposable gloves, gowns, eye protection, mask and respirators.

“Most of our hospitals are struggling with protective equipment. So how in an MOU can we agree to respirators?” Ruffin said.

Neal said the District has personal protective equipment in stock and will order more. Some of the items will be distributed when students and staff return to school campuses.

“How many respirators does our District own?” said Ruffin, who appeared to confuse a respirator with a ventilator.

Ruffin also asked about child care leave, and protective screens.

“We have purchased Plexiglas for certain areas on our campuses, hand washing stations, hand sanitizer,” Neal said.

District teachers will work from home. The District is working with classified employees one-one-one in regard to possible child care issues to determine if they might be able to continue working from home.

Ruffin also asked Neal to share more information about the MOU, saying the process was not transparent to her.

“Can you shed some more light on that because it’s not clear?” Ruffin said.

Neal explained that the CSEA Chapter 12 negotiating team is selected by the members to negotiate their behalf.

The negotiating team then takes the agreement to its membership for a vote.

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