LANCASTER — A memorandum of understanding between Antelope Valley Union High School District and the Antelope Valley Teachers Association to support the continuity of learning while mitigating the spread of COVID-19 failed Thursday night when member Victoria Ruffin voted no.
The Board voted 2-1, with trustee John Rush absent.
Ruffin sought to table the agreement after Board Clerk Jill McGrady called for the vote following discussion. Member Amanda Parrell voted yes and student trustee Elijah Johnson voted yes.
“I put a second motion on the table, Board clerk,” Ruffin said.
Although it was out of order, attorney Jay Fernow said McGrady could call for a second on Ruffin’s motion to table the agreement.
McGrady called for the second. McGrady waited about nine seconds and moved on after Parrell did not second Ruffin’s motion.
“Hearing none, it fails,” McGrady said, “so we go back to the vote that we were working on. Mr. Johnson voted aye; Ms. Parrell voted aye; Dr. Ruffin, how do you vote?”
“Why didn’t you second my motion?” Ruffin asked Parrell, then said “I vote no.”
Ruffin later acknowledged she tried to get Parrell to table the MOU.
“Did you just say that you were contacting Ms. Parrell during the meeting?” McGrady said.
“I can contact Ms. Parrell during the reading,” Ruffin said. “It’s not a uh, it’s only a Board violation if it’s three people, correct?”
The MOU, and a separate collective bargaining tentative agreement, passed with the union an overwhelming majority of AVTA members, with an estimated 86% to 95%.
“We’ve never had the level of response to any election in my 20 years doing this that we had to those two documents,” Shy told the Board during the meeting.
The MOU came after 40 to 50 hours of work between the AVTA and District’s bargaining teams, Shy said.
“I think this was a very well-written MOU,” Ruffin said.
However, Ruffin took exception to two provisions in the MOU in regard to Individualized Education Program meeting, and grades.
An Individualized Education Program, or IEP, meeting, which is required by federal statute, is done at least once a year to plan an educational program tailored to the needs of students with disabilities.
According to the MOU, “IEP meetings will be scheduled during the workday.”
Ruffin said that could make it difficult for some parents to attend the meetings. She also said it does not give teachers an option.
“What is definitive in that language is it says it will be,” Ruffin said. “I’m not sure if there is any room for any flexibility for opportunities for IEPs to be held after 3 o’clock.”
Ruffin also questioned a provision about grading policies. According to the MOU, “(g)rades will be assigned based on teacher discretion pursuant to Education Code.”
Ruffin said there inconsistencies across the District from school to school about grading policies.
“I looked within what was posted online,” Ruffin said. “I have not seen an education code that speaks to teachers having discretion about grading.”
According to Education Code 49066 (a), under Article 3, “When grades are given for any course of instruction taught in a school district, the grade given to each pupil shall be the grade determined by the teacher of the course and the determination of the pupil’s grade by the teacher, in the absence of clerical or mechanical mistake, fraud, bad faith, or incompetency, shall be final.”
Ruffin asked that the information be provided to the Board.
“These are the only two issues that I have with this MOU at this time,” Ruffin said. “Other than that, I think that it’s well-written. If this information could be provided to the Board, I would be in full agreement of this.”
Brett Neal, assistant superintendent of Personnel Services, said it has been the District’s practice to schedule IEPs during the work day.
“We do have quite a bit of flexibility currently since we are in a virtual setting, and we are able to work around some of our parents’ schedules with that,” Neal said.