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Teachers voice their opinions

Cory Fisher

Roughly 90 teachers turned out Tuesday at the Lake Tahoe Unified School District’s Board of Education meeting to show their concern regarding yet-to-be-resolved teachers’ salary negotiations.

Although negotiating teams have agreed not to discuss ongoing debates with the press, 20-year Tahoe Valley Elementary School teacher Judy Schwartz – the only teacher to speak – talked to the board about the commitment and professionalism she sees among the district’s teachers.

“Some would say I’m speaking tonight because I have an ax to grind or a hidden agenda,” Schwartz said. “On the contrary, I’m here tonight because I haven’t slept well in weeks. I’ve had something I need to get off my chest – so tonight I speak to you, the school board, for the second time in my career.”

Schwartz went on to applaud the dedication of the district’s teachers, be it staying late, giving up weekends or comforting students who are afraid to go home.

“What is their reward? Teachers are professionals – they do it for the kids,” she said. “(Many teachers) are obliged to work second jobs on weekends and evenings to make house payments or save a little extra from their own children’s education. I am concerned – a number of excellent teachers are considering leaving LTUSD because they can’t afford to raise their families in the Tahoe Area … (teachers) deserve to be rewarded with compensation that reflects their level of professionalism.”

In an interview afterward, Schwartz said many teachers are frustrated because their “doesn’t seem to be much progress” in the negotiating process. “If there’s extra money available, a lot should go to the teachers,” she said.

Superintendent Rich Alexander applauded the teachers’ dedication and said he feels things will move forward now that an outside facilitator is scheduled to take part in negotiations next week. In addition, because negotiators are currently at an impasse on the grievance procedure, a state-appointed mediator will participate in a December 17 meeting.

Mike Patterson, South Tahoe High School teacher and president of the South Tahoe Educators Association, at the close of the meeting said he sees the process moving forward, especially in light of recent negotiation/bargaining trainings.

“We all want to move forward, we’re hopeful,” Patterson said. “We hope to arrive at a fair and equitable salary.”


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