Teachers picket for support | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Teachers picket for support

B.H. Bose

Above average teachers, below average salaries.

That is what was stated on many of the signs held high by local school teachers at an “informative picket” on the corner of Al Tahoe and U.S. Highway 50 early Tuesday evening. It is also the gist of the dispute between the Lake Tahoe Unified School District and its teachers.

Teachers from the elementary school level to the high school strolled the sidewalk outside the school district’s office from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., with the main purpose alerting the public to their plight and asking for the public’s support.

“We are here to inform the public what the issues are and where we are in negotiations,” said Mike Patterson, president of South Tahoe Educators Association and a full-time auto mechanics teacher at South Tahoe High School. “This is one way to get the word out.”

According to Patterson, the teachers are currently in salary negotiations with the school district. What the teachers are asking for is basically a salary, with annual pay raises, compatible with school districts of similar size.

“Negotiations were started back in August and we probably spent 60 to 70 hours in negotiations and finally got to the point where both sides decided there was an impasse,” Patterson said. “It is pretty simple, our pay is well below the rate in districts throughout California.”

The association in fact compared the teacher’s salaries in Lake Tahoe Unified School District to districts of similar size in other parts of the state. What it found was that while district administrators and “total classified” employees, which includes bus drivers, custodians, secretaries, ranked 11th out of the 21 districts, classroom teachers ranked 19th.

“Teachers in this district were second from the bottom, and that puts us well below the state average,” Patterson said.

A pay raise was offered earlier in the year, but it was turned down by 82 percent of the teachers, Patterson said. The reason was it again didn’t fit with other school districts.

“Just so people know, we have been accused of being unreasonable. To receive the same pay as comparable districts, we will need a 5 percent pay raise and roughly a 10 percent raise on top of that,” Patterson said. “We are not asking for all that at once, just a fair raise over the next few years.”

To help resolve the situation, a mediator has been called in by the state. All day today that mediator will meet with both sides and try to find an agreement that fits both parties needs. Today’s meeting will be the second day the mediator has met with the groups.

“There is a possibility we could have a settlement tomorrow (today),” said Patterson. “But it is not likely since they don’t seem to be listening.”

If the mediator can’t resolve the situation, a fact-finding team will step in and make a recommendation to the district’s board of supervisors. Whatever the recommendation is, Patterson said the association will abide by it.

As for the picketing, it may have resembled a strike, but it was simply a way to rally the public’s support and to inform local residents that negotiations are going on. And with the public behind them, the teachers are hoping to get their desired pay increases.

“We are looking for long-term change in the way teachers are being compensated,” said Sue Channel, a mathematics teacher at South Tahoe High School. “In the long run, I am optimistic that something will be worked out. We will continue to ask until it happens.”

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

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