Teacher negotiations still not settled | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Teacher negotiations still not settled

Cory Fisher

Teachers, perhaps 75-strong, crowded the Lake Tahoe Unified School District board of education meeting Tuesday, many sporting buttons with the message, “Respect, trust and equity.”

Frustrations continue to grow between the South Tahoe Educators Association and the district, after jointly declaring an impasse in salary negotiations in late March.

Although a date has not been set, the Public Employees Relations Board has appointed a state mediator, STEA President Mike Patterson said Wednesday.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, seven teachers made emotional statements to the board, expressing teachers’ frustrations in regard to the unresolved negotiations that began back in September.

“We’re paid poorly – but don’t take my word for it,” said negotiating team member Sue Channel. “Read the report that shows districts in the same financial condition.”

Channel then pointed to a chart that showed teacher salaries ranked 20th on a 21-district list.

“Perhaps you have heard, as I have, that a few agitators are inflaming the teachers’ emotions, distracting them from the truth,” said teacher Mike Noble. “But this is not the case … teachers have been shown this year that they receive no respect from this administration, that they cannot trust this administration, and will not be treated with equity by this administration.”

Although negotiations have taken place behind closed doors, Patterson said the district is “not offering enough given the (5.4 percent) budget increase this year.”

In a tentative agreement, Patterson said the proposed 3.75 percent increase, plus O.8 percent in insurance savings was voted down.

“Eighty-two percent of teachers say this is not enough,” he said.

Several teachers urged board members to spend time researching the budget, and attributed a break down of trust to an increase given to principals, vice-principals, psychologists and counselors in 1995-96.

At the time, STEA members were not notified of this increase, however board members recently stated in a letter that this will not happen in the future.

“This goes directly to the issues of trust and equity,” Noble said. “(This) is significant to teachers.”

“This is a board that acts with integrity and honesty,” said board member Wendy David. “We are working hard to make an equitable decision – we truly appreciate the crowd and varying opinions.”

Chief negotiator Steve Hall said he hopes mediation will help bring about an agreement in the little more than seven weeks left in the school year.

“We need to get 51 percent of the membership to approve the agreement – that’s hard to do in the summertime,” Patterson said. “If things are not resolved by September, that would not be a good way to start the year.”

Superintendent Rich Alexander said he agreed.

“The board and myself are looking forward to a speedy resolution to this issue,” Alexander said Wednesday. “We’re hoping to make quick progress using a mediator.”

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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