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Teachers, school district reach salary agreement

by Andy Bourelle

The teachers and the school district have reached an agreement – tentatively.

After a full day of negotiations Wednesday, the Lake Tahoe Unified School District and the South Tahoe Educators Association reached a tentative agreement on teacher salaries.

In the agreement, teachers will receive a retroactive 5.4 percent raise and a promise that their salaries will be increased in the future, putting them into the top one-third of salaries compared to California school districts of similar size and budget.

The teachers had wanted the 5.4 percent raise, but wanted it retroactive to September 1997. The agreement is for October 1997. Additionally, the district wanted a larger raise for more experienced, soon-to-be-retiring teachers to give them the opportunity for better retirement plans, but that was not agreed upon.

“Obviously, we didn’t get everything we wanted,” said Mike Patterson, president of the South Tahoe Educators Association. “I think it was a reasonable solution.”

The school district had wanted a two-year contract, but the agreement could be reached only for a one-year plan.

The agreement still will need to be approved by the school district and the teachers association.

“I have no reason to believe it won’t be approved by the district and the teachers,” Patterson said.

Negotiations began in August, and the proposed agreement is a one-year plan for the 1997-98 year.

The average salary for the district’s teachers was $38,580 for the 1997-98 school year, according to the school district. That does not reflect any increase from 1996-97 because negotiations went on the whole year.

Negotiations for 1998-99 will start after the school year begins.

“Both sides need a little time off,” Patterson said.

However, the work of the state-appointed mediator, who started working with the groups when the two sides reached an impasse earlier this year, is complete.

The proposed agreement has two facets.

First, teachers will receive a 5.4 percent raise retroactive to Oct. 1, 1997. This means, Patterson said, that teachers will receive a 5.4 percent raise for the 1998-99 school year and a lump-sum payment for the difference between what they earned in 1997-98 and what they would have earned with a 5.4 percent raise.

The other aspect of the tentative agreement is that the existing Salary Comparison Committee, made up of three teacher association members and three school district administrators, will gather information for coming up with a plan that will allow the teachers to be paid better in upcoming years.

In earlier discussions, the Salary Comparison Committee came up with a list of 20 other California districts which were comparable to Lake Tahoe.

The committee is to come up with a plan to place Lake Tahoe teacher salaries in the top one-third of that list. The committee is supposed to recommend a plan by April 1, 1999.

A special meeting of the school district will be held 7 a.m. on July 30 to discuss, and potentially approve, the tentative agreement.

Patterson said the 293 members of the educators association would vote on the agreement in September.

Patterson said the teachers have been notified the tentative agreement was reached, but many have not yet read the proposal.

“Whether or not it’s something they’re really happy with I don’t know, because they have not had a chance to read it,” he said. “I think it’s a reasonable solution. I would think the teachers would approve it.”

The school district is relieved to have reached an agreement.

“We’re happy. The whole objective of the negotiating process is to reach an agreement, and we reached an agreement,” said Ralph Johnson, LTUSD business manager.

Johnson said the district was hopeful the negotiating process would run more smoothly this fall.

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

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