PERB Justly Finds MBUSD Guilty of Withholding Documents
September 22, 2014
The Public Employment Relations Board’s decision, released on Sept. 3, states that the Manhattan Beach Unified School District had “failed to negotiate in good faith” by withholding requested documents from the Manhattan Beach Unified Teachers’ Association relevant to teacher contract negotiations. Based on the evidence from the trial, PERB’s decision was just, and, in the future, changes must be made to ensure an improved relationship between MBUSD and MBUTA and a fair outcome in upcoming negotiations.
PERB found that MBUSD’s responses to seven of nine MBUTA requests for documents since March 2013 were unreasonably delayed or incomplete. It ruled that the district must produce up-to-date responses for the seven requests. Unless MBUSD appeals the decision, which according to Superintendent Dr. Mike Matthews it does not plan to do, it must also post a notice stating its law violations at all work locations within 30 days.
PERB has the authority to issue orders to enforce its statutes and seek enforcement of its rulings in court but does not have the authority to grant damages. Based soley on its authority, PERB’s ruling is a sufficient response to MBUTA’s complaint, as it has reinforced MBUTA’s claim that the district has not been financially transparent.
PERB’s findings reflect ongoing mistakes the district has made, which could have affected MBUTA’s ability to reach a fair negotiation settlement last year, but according to MBUTA President Shawn Chen, this ruling is not about money, but rather about exposing the truth. She hopes that MBUTA and MBUSD will be able to enjoy a respectful and truthful relationship in the future. In addition to following PERB’s guidelines, which Matthews stated will be adhered to, the district must make an effort to repair the damaged trust and respect between itself and MBUTA. Both parties should make reconciliation a priority, so students do not feel the effects of this strained relationship, as they have in the past.
MBUTA should continue to ask for district documents relevant to its negotiations in order to strengthen their faith in the district’s financial clarity. Chen believes that this ruling should cast doubt on MBUSD’s financial health. According to Matthews, last year’s requests for documents are what led the district to discover a $1 million budget discrepancy. Requests for documents are necessary in order to confirm district claims and help it maintain complete transparency. This ruling is an opportunity for the district to show it is willing to cooperate with MBUTA.
According to Matthews, it was a lot of work to collect the documents, and the district had to hire extra personnel to provide them. Although MBUTA asked for an enormous amount of paperwork, MBUSD should have communicated its efforts and plans to compile and release the documents to MBUTA if it knew it could not immediately produce them. Providing some kind of explanation for the delay would be better than producing no response, as it did in some cases, according to PERB testimony.
Former Deputy Superintendent Dr. Rick Bagley was responsible for the financial workings of the district and was the chief negotiator for MBUSD. MBUTA is hopeful that new Deputy Superintendent Dawnalyn Murakawa-Leopard will handle document requests more efficiently and effectively.
With the new staff member, the district has an opportunity to regain the trust of MBUTA, depending on how it handles its transparency in the future.
The Manhattan Beach Board of Trustees replaced former Deputy Superintendent Dr. Rick Bagley on Sept. 3 with new Assistant Superintendent of Administrative Offices Dawnalyn Murakawa-Leopard.
Prior to entering MBUSD, Murakawa-Leopard held administrative positions throughout the country, such as principal at Horace Mann High School in New York City and chief administrative officer at Beverly Hills High School.
“I am looking forward to getting to know the staff, students and community members who have helped to build MBUSD’s fabulous reputation,” Murakawa-Leopard said.
Murakawa-Leopard’s primary responsibility within Manhattan Beach Unified School District is to manage and evaluate MBUSD’s $55-million budget.
“The accounting experience that she has is important because she’s dealing with a large sum of money,” Costa Principal Dr. Ben Dale said.