Salary negotiations remain stalled among teachers, Lake Tahoe school district |

Salary negotiations remain stalled among teachers, Lake Tahoe school district

Salary negotiations for the 2000-01 fiscal year have yet to yield results for the Lake Tahoe Unified School District and its teachers.

The district and the South Tahoe Educators Association have unsuccessfully completed a final round of mediation with a state-appointed mediator, according to a statement released Thursday by the district.

“Within the next week if either side does not come up with a plan to come back to negotiations, our mediator, who is Dave Gilb, will take the mediation to closure and we will go to fact finding,” Superintendent Diane Scheerhorn said. “In fact finding, you have three people involved. Each side may pick one person to represent themselves and then there will be a neutral party.”

If the mediator sends the district and teachers to fact finding, each side will present its case to the three council members. The council members will decide on a solution and both groups have the choice to accept or reject it.

“It’s not a binding decision,” said LeAnne Kankel, a member of the district’s negotiating team. “It’s a decision that is essentially a recommendation.”

The fact-finding council makes its recommendation to the Board of Education, which then decides whether or not to accept or reject it. If the board does not approve the decision, the district must implement its last best offer.

The board and district administration released information about the most recent compensation package offered to teachers, in what they state is an effort to provide a balanced view of the current negotiation stalemate.

“The STEA states that the cost of living allowance provided by the state should be used to fund a 10.9 percent salary increase,” administrative officials said in a written statement. “A total of 72 percent of our budget did receive a 10.9 percent increase this school year. This unrestricted percentage increase was given to all schools to operate the district as the Board of Education and management deemed appropriate in keeping the district both fiscally and educationally sound. If the state had wanted all the increase to go for teacher salaries, (Gov. Gray Davis) would have restricted the dollars for that purpose.”

The district also said incoming state revenue is lower this year because average daily attendance within the Lake Tahoe Unified School District has declined.

According to the district, teachers were offered a 7 percent salary schedule increase plus a 1.1 percent increase on health and welfare benefits. In addition to this 8.1 percent increased compensation, the district lists 3 percent in additional compensation. This includes 1.5 percent for professional staff development days, .2 percent increased beginning teacher salaries and 1.3 percent for annual scheduled seniority and education improvement increases.

Total value of the compensation package, according to the district, is 11.1 percent.

STEA President Mike Patterson said if teachers had been offered a true 11.1 percent raise, they would have taken it immediately.

“I wish they had offered us 11.1 percent because we would have been done with negotiations, if they would have truly done that,” he said. “The district is offering the teachers a total compensation package of 8.1 percent with roll backs, meaning they’re asking some of our teachers to take pay cuts in other areas. And they say they’re giving us a 1.5 percent raise for staff development days? The teachers starting this year are working three extra days, so that’s not a raise. It’s just three days pay for three days extra work. For the district to call it a raise is purposely trying to deceive the public.”

Board President Wendy David said she believes the 8.1 percent compensation raise is a fair increase.

“As a board, we were pleased to be able to offer such a substantial salary offer to our teachers and we are extremely disappointed that we have not been able to reach agreement. Our efforts have been to keep our district fiscally responsible while compensating our employees fairly.”

Patterson said the increase is not comparable to other similar districts in California.

“In a normal year, a cost of living increase of 8 percent would be very good,” he said. “But this is not a normal year because districts up and down the state are passing on double-digit salary increases to their teachers without a fight.”

STEA Bargaining Chair Steve Hall said the district’s claim of an 11.1 percent increase is misleading.

“To infer to the public that teachers are turning down an 11.1 percent compensation packages is not being truthful,” Hall said. “Purposely telling false information to the public is misleading. Teachers are held accountable for what they say in the classroom and I believe district administrators need to be held accountable for what they say in public. If they were truly offering us an 11.1 percent salary increase, we would be happy, definitely.”

Scheerhorn said it is important to be fair to all education personnel, where pay increases are concerned.

“As an educator, I believe we must keep the purpose of the educational community in the forefront throughout the entire negotiation process,” she said. “The purpose of schools is to educate all students. We need the efforts of the entire community to complete that task effectively and efficiently. So, as we look to provide compensation for our teachers, we must also keep in mind the hundreds of other personnel that support the educational effort. We must value all and treat all people equally with respect, caring and compassion.”

The following is a set of belief statements released by the district in support of its compensation offer:

– We will not consider a budget that negatively impacts the program needs of all its students.

– We will not gamble on uncertain revenue dollars, especially since we are a declining enrollment district. However, we are open to reviewing finances after April 15 for consideration of additional revenue that may be available to support salary increases.

– We will not consider a budget that favors one employee group over another.

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