One day awayNEGOTIATORS FOR THE STATE and teachers union expected to meet this afternoon in hopes of breaking a contract impasse before a threatened strike tomorrow.
HSTA and state call talks
'very far apart' as Hawaii faces
dual teachers strikes
>> HSTA Web site
>> State Web site
>> DOE Web site
School strike Q&A
By Pat Omandam
When they broke off talks last night, both sides said they were still far apart.
"It doesn't look like we're going to get it settled in time to avert this strike," Joan Husted, executive director of the Hawaii State Teachers Association, said after leaving the session at about 11:30.
She said a last stab would be made today at settling significant differences over salaries, but she's not optimistic. "So I would suggest the parents make whatever arrangements they need to make for their youngsters."
As Davis Yogi, the state's chief negotiator, left the session at the union's Moanalua headquarters, he said, "We're looking at it from upside down, inside out. We've gotta find some solution to this. We are far apart, but we can always look for solutions somehow."
Unless a settlement is reached by midnight today, Hawaii's nearly 13,000 public school teachers and supporters are scheduled to abandon their classrooms for picket lines at 6 a.m. tomorrow in the first statewide teachers strike in 28 years.
Yogi said some agreement was reached last night on noncost items and both sides are hopeful of finding a solution to other issues, "but this is tough."
As he left the talks earlier in the night, schools Superintendent Paul LeMahieu said the negotiators were "seeing how some numbers match up. A little more informal conversation, then they'll call up and give us some word."
Board of Education member Denise Matsumoto added, "I can't say anything but we haven't given up."
Parents looking for child care this morning will find space available at major facilities. Among those taking applicants are the Moiliili Community Center, Boys and Girls Clubs and Kamaaina Kids.
None of our sites are full yet," said Cheryl Winterbottom, office manager for Kamaaina Kids, which has about 20 Oahu programs.
"I don't think parents are panicking. I think they're waiting until Monday."
Many parents are relying on friends and family members to care for their children for a couple days, she said. If the strike goes on, then they'll make other arrangements, she said. "They're hoping it won't last."
Meanwhile, state legislators -- who must ultimately approve any contract settlement between the state and HSTA -- are allowed to bring their children to work if their staff can watch them.
HOUSE SPEAKER Calvin Say (D, Palolo) said he opened up the state Capitol to legislative keiki if they can behave themselves and occupy their time by reading or watching television. Senate President Robert Bunda (D, Wahiawa-North Shore) has taken a similar view.
"I'm more than happy to allow that to occur," Say said yesterday. One of Say's two sons and all three of Bunda's children attend public schools.
Both legislative leaders are expected to meet with Gov. Ben Cayetano today to discuss the negotiations and the pending strike.
Yesterday, the Hawaii Labor Relations Board handed the state administration a blow when it dismissed complaints that the HSTA had bargained in bad faith.
The state had argued that a strike cannot occur until the complaints are resolved.
THE CASE WAS HEARD by two of the three board members, Chairman Brian Nakamura and management representative Kathleen Racuya-Markrich. Labor board member Chester Kunitake had recused himself from the hearing.
The state had argued that the union and its president, Karen Ginoza, bargained in bad faith because Ginoza acknowledged she had not looked at the state's final offer and because the union rejected the state's final offer before costing it out and without offering a written counterproposal.
In a 19-page ruling released yesterday afternoon, Nakamura and Racuya-Markrich disagreed with the state and also ruled that the union did not act in bad faith in not moving off its demand of a 22 percent wage increase since the negotiations began.
The state has offered an 11 percent pay raise and said it cannot afford to pay any more without cuts to essential government services and programs.
"We told everyone that we followed the rules," Ginoza said yesterday during a break in negotiations at HSTA headquarters in Moanalua. "This shows that we had bargained in good faith all the way through and that we have been honest every step of the way."
IF THE STATE COMPLAINT had been successful, the strike could have been delayed.
In another motion before the board, state Attorney General Earl Anzai asked the labor board yesterday to reconsider its decision not to declare 322 special-education teachers as "essential workers" during a teachers strike.
The board on Monday had stated that the Department of Education failed to provide an adequate plan to show how these teachers would be used to prevent harm from coming to the neediest students.
NOW, ADVOCATES of special-needs children under the Felix consent decree say if a strike occurs, they will be watching closely to see whether special-needs children are being adversely affected by the walkout and if the federal court should intervene.
Eric Seitz, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he will be watching during the first few days of the strike to see if children are being threatened with irreparable harm or if the Department of Education is unable to meet its obligation under the federal court order.
"If one of those things happens, then we'll bring it to the judge's attention, and we'll ask the judge to do whatever he thinks is appropriate," he said.
Seitz said he will not file a motion on the first or second day of a teachers strike and will wait until parents or other people have evidence to show this needs the federal court's attention.
"I'd be very surprised if we went past the middle of next week. Because by that time, I'm sure we'll have the information brought to our attention. It's likely that that's when we'll do something," Seitz said.
Principals continue to plan for the possibility of operating schools without teachers. Several principals met at Hahaione School yesterday for a regular meeting that turned to discussion of the pending strike.
Maxine Nagamine, principal at Kalani High School, would not discuss details of the meeting but spoke on the mood of the principals.
"We're just preparing so that everything goes as smooth as possible," she said. "We're hoping it doesn't happen but we have to be prepared."
Star-Bulletin writers Helen Altonn, Rod Antone
and B.J. Reyes contributed to this report.
>> HSTA Web site
>> State Web site
Question: If a strike occurs, which Department of Education employees are required to report to work?
School may open
even with strike
School strike Q&A
Answer: All salaried school-level employees who are not in HSTA Bargaining Unit 05 are required to report to work.
This includes principals, vice principals, school administrative services assistants, clerical employees, educational assistants, library assistants, cafeteria workers, school custodians, school security attendants, professional special services employees, athletic directors, teachers on 49 percent contracts, JROTC instructors, and special-education teachers hired by DOE contractors.
At the state and district level, all employees must report to work.
Teachers at New Century Public Charter Schools -- who are hired by their local boards of education -- must report in, except for student services coordinators. School health aides, as well as licensed practical nurses who are assigned to certain schools, are Department of Health employees and must report to work as usual.
Q: Which DOE employees should not report to work during a strike?
A: School-level employees paid hourly wages should not report to work unless called in as needed by school principals. This includes part-time temporary teachers, After-School Plus (A+) workers, emergency hires, substitutes, adult supervisors, classroom cleaners and paraprofessional tutors.
If offered work during the strike, the hourly workers may decide whether or not to accept their assignments.
Q: What criteria will be used to determine if a school is prepared to open to students during the strike?
A: Schools will be closed to students for at least the first two days of the strike to allow administrators to assess each school's readiness to open.
The deparment said that individual schools may reopen to students when a sufficient number of teachers and other support staff are available.
For each grade opened, the school must be able to provide essential accommodations, modifications and services to special-education students and students with disabilities.
Q: Will regular substitute teachers be hired to conduct classes?
A: Generally, no. Prior assignments for substitutes that occur during the strike period will be canceled.
If a school is open to students and a nonstriking teacher requires a substitute, the school may arrange for one. Whenever used, substitute teachers will serve only as temporary manpower and not as permanent replacements for legally striking workers.
Q: Where can the public get information on strike developments, including the list of schools able to reopen?
A: Information on school status will be released to the media by 4:30 p.m. on the day prior to a school's opening. This and other updates will also be available at the "Strike Info" link on the DOE's Web page at doe.k12.hi.us, and on a phone recording at 586-INFO (586-4636), beginning today.
>> HSTA Web site
>> State Web site