Teachers speak up at district meeting | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Teachers speak up at district meeting

Mary Thompson

Public comment session at Tuesday’s Lake Tahoe Unified School District board meeting turned into a plea to administrators to get teachers’ contract negotiations settled.

Teacher Steve Hall, a South Tahoe Educators’ Association negotiations team representative, spoke to the board on behalf of the 296 teachers in the district.

“We want contract negotiations settled now,” he said over the loud speaker. “We don’t enjoy being confrontational but we expect to be paid a fair wage … as a group we are no longer content to be paid poorly.”

Hall’s speech was received with a standing ovation from audience members and a move to push the meeting forward by Superintendent Rich Alexander.

More than 100 people attended the meeting, where at least half of the crowed showed support for the teachers by wearing black T-shirts that read, “It’s Time For a Change.”

Educators’ Association President Mike Patterson said the teachers have had to resort to public comment at board meetings to communicate with the district.

“The current board will not sit down and talk with us,” Patterson said. “The only way we have to communicate with them is at the school board meeting.”

The teachers filed impasse paperwork in May, claiming they could no longer engage in good-faith bargaining practices with the district because it rescinded on agreements made with the teachers in January 1999.

Since then, the two groups have been communicating through a state-appointed mediator, who sets the schedule of the talks. The parties have met with he mediator on two occasions without resolution this summer.

Alexander said the district is ready to continue the process.

“We are in regular contact with the mediator and are eagerly waiting for her to get a date to resume negotiations,” Alexander said.

Patterson also said the teachers are anxious to go back to the table.

“The impression out there is that we don’t want to negotiate but nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “We’ve been 440 days without a contract – we will go back.”

The teachers are seeking a salary increase that would bring them into the top 1/3 of the comparables list – a list that compares teachers pay of 21 California school districts of similar size and state funding received. Currently, LTUSD teachers rank second to last in beginning and top salary rates when compared to the other districts.

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