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Grandview teachers say no to district's contract offer

GRANDVIEW - The Grandview Education Association and the school district are still unresolved in the collective bargaining agreements. The teachers association took action Wednesday and Thursday last week by 'working to contract', meaning the educators put in just the 7.5 hour days that are required.

"We all met in the parking lot and walked in together; and when it was time to leave, we did," Grandview Education Association President Jamie Downing said.

According to Downing, the association's actions were intended to show district officials that the teachers feel under-appreciated.

"We don't feel like the district appreciates the hard work and extra hours we put in," she said.

According to a statement released on Friday by Grandview Superintendent Kevin Chase, the district has offered to provide means in which to make up the state mandated 1.9 percent salary cut without imposing even more of a financial responsibility on the district.

The teachers' association, however, is asking the district to dip into the reserve fund and make up the 1.9 percent cuts enforced by the state. In addition, the teachers are asking for an increase on insurance coverage to make up for the increased rates induced by the downturn in the economy.

"Some of the teachers are taking a cut because of the increased insurance rates," Downing added.

Chase reported that the district has offered a new responsibility stipend; 1 percent of each teacher's base contract amount for each year of a proposed two-year agreement. In addition to making up over half the cuts made by the state, the District has also offered to agree to the cash-out of one additional day of personal leave at the substitute teacher rate of pay.

"That rate is $115," Downing said.

Teachers, she said, feel that rate isn't enough.

"We know they administration has not taken a pay cut," she added. "And the average administrator has seen a 12 percent pay increase," she added.

As for insurance, the District has offered to continue its contributions for health insurance premiums consistent with prior years. The amount the district currently provides to the association members annually for insurance is $264,000 above what the state funds.

Still, teachers feel the bigger issue is the feeling of under-appreciation for the hours, time and work they put into each school year.

Downing said the district has the money to spend. In addition to the lack of appreciation and still no contract settlement, she said the district has spent more money on what the association eludes to as unnecessary.

"The school board approved the hiring of new consultants," Downing said. "They are coming from San Diego, their salary is $1,000-$1,100 every day they are here; plus we pay for their travel expenses."

Downing said personally she will be pulled out of her classroom 20 days this school year to meet with a consultant.

"Plus we (the district) have to pay a substitute teacher," she added.

At the education association's general membership meeting in August, Downing said the members unanimously voted to not accept anything less than a 1.9 percent pay raise to make up for the state-mandated cut.

Chase countered that the district has offered a 4.5 percent increase for work outside the contract day and a 2 percent increase in summer school pay over the current contract rate.

But for Grandview's teachers, the 1.9 percent has to be met and is not negotiable.

"The district has a healthy reserve fund; $6.9 million," she said. "They can afford to do this."

Chase said that the district, like most, is currently going through a difficult budget period.

"Our funding was cut 1.3 million dollars last year alone and has been cut over 4.6 million dollars in the last three years," he added. "We have made reductions in costs in many areas of district operations."

Chase said the district has budgeted to spend more than $1 million of the reserve fund dollars to ensure job security district-wide.

"Many other neighboring districts have chosen to lay off librarians, teachers, nurses and counselors," Chase said. "Grandview has not."

Chase added Grandview has not seen layoffs in nearly 13 years.

"The District has carefully built up its reserve fund to allow us to offset previous and expected future additional funding cuts and budget shortfalls in an effort to preserve jobs and our investments in innovative programs," he added.

Chase said in his prepared statement that the teachers association's proposal puts the district's ability to plan for financial security in jeopardy. In addition, position reductions may be likely after this year, he said.

"Our fiscal office estimates the Association's proposals to have a combined total impact of at least $650,000 over a two-year period," he added. "This is in addition to the over 1.3 million dollars annually in negotiated additional pay and benefits its members already receive under their contract."

The teachers are frustrated because they believe the district is simply holding out the funds, when they can afford to approve the contract.

"As an association we have never felt more united on an issue, as we have at this bargain," Downing added. "We do want to resolve it, but we won't be ratifying anything that has anything less than the 1.9 percent."

Downing said the association is set on seeing the 1.9 percent and will not budge.

"If we can't reach an agreement, things are going to get interesting," she added.

Chase concluded in the statement, "We will continue to try to reach agreement on a contract that is fair, responsible and appropriate for our employees as well as for our District."

The next school board meeting is scheduled for tonight (Monday) at 6:30 p.m. in the high school library.

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