Teachers, District hold on during mediation | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Teachers, District hold on during mediation

Contract negotiations between the Lake Tahoe Unified School District and the South Tahoe Educators Association remain unsettled, as the two sides struggle to find common ground.

A state-appointed mediator has been involved since May 1999.

No one seems to know how long the mediation process will continue or if it will result in a solution, but both sides seem willing to stick it out for a bit longer.

“We will continue in the mediation process until the mediator feels it’s no longer a viable option for us,” STEA President Mike Patterson said.

Patterson is confident that new school board members Bernadette Santana, Lennie Schwartz and Sue Yang, who were endorsed by the teachers, will keep the ball rolling toward positive change.

“I think things have changed considerably for the better,” Patterson said. “We still have faith they will (continue changing).”

According to Yang, trust is being re-established between the district and the teachers.

“Our biggest obstacle was that the teachers felt there was no trust in the district and I do think that’s changing,” Yang said. “The one promise I made to the teachers was that I would not lie to them. They can believe what I’m telling them.”

Santana also said some positive headway is being made.

“Lennie (Schwartz,) Sue (Yang) and I are working very hard with Wendy (David) and Stacy (Romagnolo) to come up to speed,” Santana said. “As new board members, we’re very hopeful as are (David) and (Schwartz) and we’re working very hard to find a resolution.”

But how much longer will the wait be for the 287 LTUSD teachers who are still working under the terms and conditions of their expired contracts?

“We haven’t had a contract for a year and a half,” Patterson said.

As of October 1999, teachers were asking for a salary increase that would put them in the top third of the comparables list – a list which compares 21 California school districts of similar size that receive around the same amount of state funding.

According to LeAnne Kankel, LTUSD director of human resources, and a member of the district’s negotiating team, LTUSD teachers rank 11th out of 21 districts, in accordance to the agreed upon criteria with the Teachers Association.

The two sides met with new mediator David Gilb a little over a week ago, when according to Kankel, the district made STEA an offer.

“The district made a proposal,” Kankel said. “I can’t comment on what they (the teachers) are asking for.”

The proposal was not issued in writing, but rather read aloud by Gilb.

“We were disappointed in the district’s offer, but we’ve been told that we didn’t understand the proposal,” Patterson said. “I’ve requested that we get that in writing to see if we’ve missed something.

“We don’t want to accept an offer that’s going to move us down in the comparables. We’re looking for movement and we’re looking for movement up.”

Yang said she thinks an agreement is on its way.

“It’s all going to work out,” she said. “I have confidence that we can make this happen. The teachers are a group of professionals and the district is a group of professionals and there’s no reason why this can’t work out.”

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