Teachers take feelings to the streets | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Teachers take feelings to the streets

Mary Thompson

More than 50 teachers picketed Wednesday outside the Lake Tahoe Unified School District office to show their discontent with the progress of contract negotiations.

The teachers, who were wearing black T-shirts that read, “It’s time for a change,” marched with signs of protest after negotiations with a state-appointed mediator ended at noon.

“This is not a strike,” said Mike Patterson, president of the South Tahoe Educators’ Association, which represents the 296 teachers in the district. “It’s an informational picket.”

Superintendent Rich Alexander said he could not comment on the specifics of the meeting with the mediator or why negotiations were called off.

“The district was prepared to negotiate all day,” he said. “The mediator called the meeting off at noon but we’re going to remain positive and try to get things settled.”

Patterson said the district offered a proposal, which the union rejected, that would have driven the teachers’ salaries further down the comparables list – a study by School Services of California which compares salaries of 20 school districts that share similar size and amount of state funding.

According to the study, LTUSD teachers rank second to last in the categories of top salary and beginning salary paid.

Patterson said the goal of the Educators’ Association is to move the teachers into the top one-third of the list. He also said the district agreed to some measures reached in good-faith bargaining to reach their goal, but then rescinded on the terms they agreed to.

The teachers have been working under the terms and conditions of their old contracts which expired July 1, 1998. Wednesday marks the second time LTUSD teachers have picketed about negotiations of this particular contract.

“It’s frustrating,” said Liz Bryan, who has taught in the district for almost four years. “We should be negotiating for the 1999/2000 school year right now but we haven’t even settled on last year’s contract.

“What does this look like for my future? Do I want to put my 30 years in here or go to Sacramento where there’s better pay and retirement?”

Bob Anderson, a 15-year veteran teacher of the LTUSD, said he hopes picketing brings awareness to the situation.

“Our salary schedule comes in at the bottom of the bottom,” he said. “We think it’s time for a change.”

Superintendent Alexander said the district is waiting to hear from the mediator about when the negotiations will resume.

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