Tensions arise as district declares impasse among other issues during the public session


The crowd holds up various protest signs during the Board of Trustee meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 12 in Camarillo, Calif. Most of the crowd consisted of VCCCD staff and faculty. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

By Ryan Bough

The Ventura County Community College District Board of Trustees met in a public session on Tuesday, Nov. 12, to discuss multiple agenda items. The reason behind the demonstrators appearance was to witness public comments regarding the current negotiations between the VCCCD and the teachers union, AFT Local 1828.

Over 200 protesters gathered inside the meeting and outside in the parking lot. The boardroom’s maximum capacity rule was strictly enforced by police, unlike in previous meetings.

During the public comments, a small group of Ventura College nursing students expressed their disappointment with the program. The students referenced the recent findings of the California Board of Registered Nursing, stating that the attrition rate from the program has gone from 10% in the 2016/2017 academic year to 26% in 2017/2018 and only 65% percent of students have had an on time completion rate. Students requested that the Board of Trustees perform an investigation and audit the nursing program.

As the nursing students began to leave, Trustee Dianne McKay told them “I think it’s safe to say that the board will be asking questions about your concerns,” in regards to the nursing program.

District Board Meeting_3.jpg
Trustee Bernardo Perez listens to public comments during the Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 12 in Camarillo. Multiple speakers called out Perez specifically for his unfavored performance in the negotiations. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Students from Oxnard College addressed the board regarding the ongoing DACA trials in the Supreme Court. Michaela Sigovia, a student representative for the associated student government of Oxnard College spoke during the public hearing and asked the board questions regarding their support for undocumented students.

“As a district are we prepared for the possible outcomes of these trials?” Sigovia questioned. “We, as well as everybody who has a yellow or blue sticker, support undocumented students. Do you?” Sigovia’s question remained unanswered.

The public comments were then shifted to the discussion of the current contract negotiations between the VCCCD and the faculty union, AFT 1828. Most of those who attended the meeting wanted to voice their frustration with the negotiations after the district declared an impasse.

Steve Hall, the chief negotiator for the teachers union, told the board that the union was prepared to give them a counter-proposal on salary but the district’s team was no longer interested in meeting with the union again, then declared an impasse.

” … Then the district issued a press release that is right out of the playbook for a district not negotiating in good faith and was trying to impose a contract against its own teachers and retirees,” stated Hall.

Math professor Tom Ogimachi, whom has taught at Moorpark College for nine years, voiced his frustrations.

“The proposed 10% pay increase is a slap in the face considering it takes us from 70 out of 72 to 64 out of 72 [ranking of community college districts in California] which is still deplorable for any new faculty member coming in,” said Ogimachi.

The Ventura County Community College District is currently ranked 70 out 72 for starting salaries within the California community college districts. A first year professor can expect to have a salary of around $48,751.

Jeanette Redding, an English professor at Oxnard college whom also serves on the Health Benefits Committee revels about their most recent findings.

“At our first meeting this year, we accidentally learned that the district had been taping us for the past year without our knowledge. This, as you know, is illegal in the state of California,” said Redding. “And it wasn’t just taking a recording for the record. It was taking a recording to be used against faculty.”

Redding also stated that when she asked for a copy of the tapes she was told that the tapes were no longer accessible because the software was out of date. Redding then asked the trustees a question directly.

“So my question is, did you know about this behavior? That we were being recorded?” asked Redding. During this time, members of the crowd discharged an audible gasp.

Under California Penal Code Section 632, it is illegal to record or monitor a conversation without all parties’ consent.

District Board Meeting_5.jpg
Michael Sheetz, executive director of the AFT, speaks directly to the board of trustees regarding their conduct during negotiations, on Tuesday, Nov. 12. Sheetz spoke during the board meeting's public comments. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

In a speech during the public comments, AFT executive director Michael Sheetz called out multiple trustees for not cooperating during negotiations.

“Trustee Perez, Trustee Kennedy, I suggest you make a note of today’s date because it marks the first day of the last hours of your political careers. Your collective actions have awakened a sleeping giant with a just cause,” said Sheetz who ended his public comment by stating, “We are coming, and hell’s coming with us.”

The next Board of Trustees meeting will be held on Dec. 17, at 6 p.m.