Mediator called in for teachers’ negotiations |

Mediator called in for teachers’ negotiations

Teachers in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District who have been working without a contract since July 1998 are calling in a state-appointed mediator to referee contract negotiations between their collective bargaining unit, the South Tahoe Educators’ Association, and the school district.

Mike Patterson, president of the South Tahoe Educator’s Association, which represents 296 teachers and nurses in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District, said the district and the Educator’s Association can’t agree on salary issues.

“We are extremely poorly paid,” Patterson said. “And our retirement compensation is extremely poor.”

According to the LTUSD, teachers’ salaries range from $25,945 per year for a beginning teacher to $51,043 per year for a veteran teacher with 21 years of experience and a master’s degree.

But the Educator’s Association, a local affiliate of the California Teacher’s Association Union, said that’s not enough.

According to Patterson, studies by School Services of California Inc. show that the district’s salary and total compensation plans rate among some of the lowest when compared to 20 similar school districts in California. The other school districts – Rocklin, North Monterey County and Culver City – are rated against LTUSD because they share similar traits such as size and amounts of state funding received.

Patterson said that the LTUSD ranks second to last in some categories such as the highest salary paid and beginning salary paid.

The school district said it would like to make an effort to bring LTUSD’s salaries into the top third of the ranks but cannot afford to make the move.

“We do not have the funds to deal with a salary increase of that magnitude,” said LeAnne Kankel, LTUSD human resource director. “We were ranked 12th out of 20 (in the 30-year earning potential) and have now moved up to 11th out of 20, so we are moving up the list despite declining student enrollment.”

Student enrollment figures are relevant because the district receives about $4,000 per student per year from the state.

According to Diane Head, LTUSD financial director, student enrollment in the district is in its third year of decline. She said enrollment is down by 70 students between 1998 and 1997, following a decline of 116 students between 1997 and 1996.

“And we’re expecting another decline in 1999,” she said.

According to Patterson, negotiations between the two parties were underway in the fall but the district recently has rescinded on the terms.

“In bargaining, we’ve come to a lot of agreements,” he said. “But in the past month the district’s been taking a regressive position and now we feel that there is no credibility with the school district.”

This alleged rescinding of negotiations has been the source of charges filed by the Educator’s Association with the Public Employees Relations Board against the school district.

“Looking at the reports, it appears that the district has made several moves this year that don’t comply with the Education Employees Relation Act,” said Gene Morgan, a consultant for the California Teacher’s Association.

But the charges don’t stop there. The school district has also filed charges against the Educator’s Association, claiming a failure to negotiate.

Both charges will be heard by the Public Employee Relations Board.

Mike Connolly, who has been a teacher at the South Tahoe High School for 31 years, said the negotiations have been a cause of frustration among teachers.

“I don’t want to have to beg and plead to get a reasonable salary,” he said. “Our salaries are poor and they’re saying they can’t do much about it but I think they can.”

LTUSD and the California Teacher’s Association has said that the teachers are a long way off from striking. The next step is to bring in the mediator to help resume progress in negotiations.

“It’s going to take time,” Morgan said.

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