Oakdale Superintendent of Schools Marc Malone prides himself, as well as the Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board, on being both fair and ethical. There are also general practices and policies in place, which aid the district in maintaining a level of professionalism.
One such practice is that of not addressing issues or concerns during the Public Comments portion of the monthly school board meeting. More specifically that of staff bringing forward personnel issues during Public Comment.
“There’s a process with the unions,” Malone said of Oakdale Teachers Association (OTA) and California State Employees Association, “a collective bargaining agreement. Because we have a collective bargaining agreement, we have to work inside of that agreement.”
Malone went on to share his surprise when members of CSEA returned to address the board at the January meeting, as a follow up to their grievance and concerns aired in the December meeting.
During the Dec. 10 session, bus driver Kat Songer addressed the board, citing multiple issues of favoritism, deceit as well as preference of unqualified employees for certain positons.
Songer returned again to the Jan. 14 meeting and, speaking before the board she stated, “We were asked to meet with Mr. Kline to hear the District’s response to the Driver Trainer situation. Mr. Kline continued to read from a list of statements that the District prepared for him.”
“What they have failed to tell the public is we’ve already reached an agreement,” Malone said late last week. “The day after our board meeting in December, I met with their field representative and he said, CSEA is going to settle this grievance.”
Malone went on to explain the value of the relationship the district holds with the unions and their representatives. Representatives that are the parties the district addresses not only during contract negotiations, but grievances as well. A grievance which per the CSEA relationship and meeting is now deemed settled.
“These employees can work outside of CSEA if they want,” Malone continued, “but our relationship is with CSEA.”
That being said, Malone also noted the responsibility the district feels toward not just staffing, but maintaining good relations with its employees.
“We don’t aspire to the success that we have in this district by treating our employees unfairly,” Malone said. “Historically we don’t treat employees poorly.”
In response to Songer’s quote regarding the employees’ interaction with Superintendent Kline, Malone said he and Kline decided he would meet with the disgruntled employees in an effort to make the settled grievance more clear.
“CSEA has said the response is fair and equitable,” the Superintendent shared.
CSEA Labor Relations Representative Carl Walter also addressed the board with concerns during the December meeting, but he did not return to speak in January. Walter raised concern regarding a Lead Custodian position awarded to the son of the district’s Maintenance and Operations Director.
Malone pointed out the candidate chosen for the position had served in a nighttime custodial position for three years, something which was not shared during the Public Comment portion of the meeting and a fact, which still falls under the distant chain of command of his father, the M & O Director. The position, according to Malone, reports directly to DJ Stewart, Manager of Operations.
“All responsibilities fall on DJ,” Malone said.
Lending insight further to a union issue versus personnel issue, Malone cited that the CSEA contract bargaining agreement was reached and agreed to the very night Songer addressed the board for the second time.
“You do your best to not take it personal and just look at the facts,” Malone said of employee relations and grievances. “But it is difficult to not take it personal when the agency that represents those drivers comes back and says what you’re doing is fair and equitable and yet somehow it’s not accepted that way by these employees. That’s alarming. There’s just no other word for it.
“We’ve always rose above that,” Malone said of taking the issues to a personal level. “Calling someone out publicly, that’s just not a good way of doing business or communicating your point. It can’t be personal.”