Teachers ‘turn up heat’ in pay dispute | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Teachers ‘turn up heat’ in pay dispute

William Ferchland

The stalemate between teachers within Lake Tahoe Unified School District and district officials over cost-of-living pay raises has seeped into the classroom as reportedly all instructors invoked work-to-rule Monday.

Teachers will arrive at work 30 minutes before the start of school and leave 15 minutes after the final bell. In addition, teachers will adhere to a 30 minute duty-free lunch.

“We’re ready to turn up the heat a little bit,” said Steve Hayward, president of the South Tahoe Educators Association, during a gathering last week at Sierra House Elementary

“If we all do this, we shouldn’t be doing it for a long period of time,” said Mike Patterson, vice president of the association.

Patterson said the strategy will continue until a deal is struck between the teachers union and the district. At stake is money allotted by the state to school district called the Cost of Living Adjustment, which is part of the district’s general fund.

“Until we have a (new) contract, we’re just going to be the best we can in the confines of the (current) contract,” Patterson said.

Superintendent Jim Tarwater said he understands the move but does not condone it. He wants the dispute to be settled in mediation, where an independent party tries to get both parties to settle on a figure, and not fought in the classroom.

The mediator is scheduled to return in December but an agreement can be reached before then.

The district and teachers union has met for mediation three times without reaching an agreement.

“My issue is that we have a process going on that we can complete successfully,” Tarwater said.

The decision on how much money can be given to teachers’ salaries through COLA rests with the five-member board of education.

During last week’s meeting, where political candidate Robert Haswell, a Democrat vying for the California Assembly 4th District seat, spoke to an audience of about 50 people, Patterson said the fault lies with the school board members.

Asked if the work-to-rule strategy might alienate parents, Patterson said parents will understand and know how much time teachers invest in the classroom.

“It’s not something we want to do,” Patterson said. “Its something the board has forced us into.

Wendy David, president of the school board, could not comment directly on the mediation but seemed dismayed.

“I can say we have an extremely competent teaching staff and I believe it’s probably as difficult for them to work-to-rule as it’s for us to hear it that they are,” David said. “Anything that impacts kids impacts the entire school district.”

– Contact William Ferchland at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com.

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