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Teachers, school district still at odds with salaries

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T.J. Aguilar, 4, waits outside with his parents during the executive session of last night's school board meeting. Aguilar is the son of a Grandview teacher who is wearing a sticker promoting the district make up the 1.9 percent teacher's salary cut that was mandated by state lawmakers earlier this year.

GRANDVIEW - Parents, teachers and classified employees of the Grandview School District made up nearly 70 people who showed at last night's school board meeting.

In an effort to show solidarity throughout the Grandview Teachers' Association, teachers and their supporters silently attended the bi-monthly meeting wearing stickers that read variations of "1.9 percent." Some said, "I support children 100 percent, please support teachers." Others said, "Restore 1.9 percent."

The association's president, Jamie Downing, said the attendance at the meeting showed unity within the group on the issue of the teachers' contracts. Downing also said the group has no intention of budging from receiving 1.9 percent from the district to make up for the state cuts.

One parent supporter, Maggie Pezzullo, said Grandview houses some of the best teachers in the state.

"If the teachers are going to take a cut, so should the administrators," she added.

However, according to Executive Director of State and Federal Programs Matt Mallery, all administrators took a state-mandated 3 percent pay cut this year as well.

"The state came through and made a 3 percent reduction in all certified staff salaries," he said. "We are still negotiating with them as well."

Mallery said the district is not only negotiating contracts with teachers but with classified and administrative staff.

Pezzullo said she feels as though the teachers are not receiving the respect they deserve because they are receiving the cuts in pay. However, in last night's meeting, Superintendent Kevin Chase recommended a salary cut for himself, which the board approved at 1.4 percent.

"Instead of receiving his regular pay increase (Chase) decided to take a cut just like everyone else," Mallery added.

But for Jamie Downing the issue extends beyond the bottom dollar.

"We are doing this because we care about the kids," she said. "That's the bottom line."

Teachers and parents like Downing and Pezzullo say the district can in fact afford to make up the state-mandated 1.9 percent cut because of $6.9 million in reserves.

"We don't know where that has come from," Mallery said.

Mallery said the fund has never been as high as $6.9 million and it is currently estimated at $5.4 million. This amount does not include the nearly $1 million the district plans to dip into to meet this year's budget. In addition, Mallery said the fund is projected to end the year at $4.3 million, not including the unresolved contracts.

"(The $4.3 million balance) doesn't take into account what we settle with the teachers," he added.

Mallery said the cut was imposed by the state.

"This was not our doing," he added. "It's not fun for anyone."

Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations Brad Shreeve said his concern is not looking at this year, but looking at two and three years out.

"We have to be (aware) of whether we can afford that in the next two to five years," he said.

In addition, Shreeve said the state revenue forecast shows estimated $1.4 to $2 billion shortfalls at the state level.

"So I'm concerned about K-12 funding," he added.

The district and teachers go back to the bargaining table Thursday, Sept. 15.

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