Skip to content

Cover sheet of a PERB decision for West Contra Costa Unified School District regarding Adult School Teachers United, on a pile of printed pages of the decision.

State board rules against WCCUSD in dispute with adult education teachers

on December 11, 2023

Last month, California’s Public Employment Relations Board ruled in favor of the Adult School Teachers United, ordering the West Contra Costa Unified School District to pay lost wages to 12  teachers and to cease and desist all schedule changes for the adult education teachers.

In 2022, the district changed the schedules for adult education teachers, reducing their hours. That came as a surprise to the teachers, because changes were supposed to be made with the involvement of ASTU leadership. Before the union’s formation in 2017, lead teachers were in charge of scheduling for adult education teachers. 

“That’s what they were doing for at least three decades until the district decided they knew better,” said Tanya Smith, a lawyer representing ASTU in the case. 

The Nov. 6 PERB decision overturned a judge’s July 12 ruling in favor of the district. PERB is an administrative body tasked with ruling on public labor issues. 

In the PERB ruling, the district was found to have made changes to adult education teachers’ schedules without giving adequate notice to the union.

The district, which did not respond to a request for comment, did not appeal the decision as of the Dec. 6 deadline.

Short-lived relief

This was the most recent milestone in a two-year legal battle between ASTU and the district, beginning when the union filed the first of four unfair practice charges, the last of which was filed in August.

The district offers adults a host of literacy and vocational courses, some for a small fee and others for free. About 60 teachers instruct adults in GED, English and citizenship classes as well as business, computer, art and culinary courses, among others. 

In April, 2021, Lisa Gonzalves, then vice-principal of adult education, sent a survey to teachers to gauge preferences for online or in-person teaching for fall semester, after the district had stopped in-person classes the previous school year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kristen Pursely, an ESL teacher and the ASTU president, said many adult education teachers were concerned about how their schedules might change based on the survey feedback.

Many teachers were relieved by the email, believing they would continue to teach online as a COVID-19 precaution while maintaining the same class assignments and hours. However, they would soon find out that would not be the case.

According to Smith, Carr’s statement also indicated an intent to violate policy by unilaterally changing hours and teaching delivery methods without consulting union leadership. 

Pursley said these early indications of district overstep should have been of greater concern. 

Dispute over schedules

In June 2021, the district released the fall schedule, reflecting that some adult teachers who indicated a preference for online teaching in the survey now had their hours reduced, and in some cases, they were assigned to different classes — even teachers whose assignments had been the same for decades.

Pursley was among the teachers who demanded answers. She said the district didn’t fully address their questions. Following these initial attempts to gain clarification, the union sent a demand to bargain letter to the district in July 2021. 

The district came to the table, but no bargain was made and a protest followed on July 27, 2021.

After another unsuccessful demand to bargain, the union filed the first charges against the district. 

“I can’t tell whether they have adopted a more anti-union stance with everyone or it’s just us,” Pursley said. 

In June 2022, Pursley, then the union vice president, and Ken Ryan, the union president, were surprised to receive layoff notices. A few days later, Superintendent Kenneth “Chris” Hurst apologized to Pursley and Ryan, saying a mistake had been made and he hadn’t authorized the layoffs. The incident was not mentioned in the PERB filings. 

The district must now begin an auditing process to determine how much back pay it owes the affected teachers.

(Top photo by Wayne Gray)

Classroom vacancies force WCCUSD teachers into period-subbing, risking burnout

Richmond Confidential welcomes comments from our readers, but we ask users to keep all discussion civil and on-topic. Comments post automatically without review from our staff, but we reserve the right to delete material that is libelous, a personal attack, or spam. We request that commenters consistently use the same login name. Comments from the same user posted under multiple aliases may be deleted. Richmond Confidential assumes no liability for comments posted to the site and no endorsement is implied; commenters are solely responsible for their own content.

Card image cap
Richmond Confidential

Richmond Confidential is an online news service produced by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism for, and about, the people of Richmond, California. Our goal is to produce professional and engaging journalism that is useful for the citizens of the city.

Please send news tips to

Latest Posts

Scroll To Top