Local teacher morale mixed after contract negotiations | SierraSun.com

Local teacher morale mixed after contract negotiations

The end may be near for teacher contract negotiations, but some teachers say their relationship with the district is still not on track, while district administrators say teacher morale has increased.

The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Board will vote Wednesday to complete or continue the months-long process of teacher contract negotiations. The school district and teachers union negotiators reached a tentative agreement while in mediation on Sept. 9.

Teachers union members voted Monday to accept the proposed deal, which will give them a 7 percent cost of living increase to be implemented over the next 12 months.

But even with the pending passage of this pay increase, some teachers said they are still frustrated with what they said are mixed-messages from the school board.

“There was certainly a feeling of ‘Why now?'” said Erika Murphy, president of the Tahoe Truckee Education Association. “I think there is a feeling of distrust toward the district among some of the teachers. There were comments made at the last board meeting about their being no money in the budget [for a cost of living increase], but two days later they came to the table with this offer.”

She said the 7 percent increase will cost the district $1.3 million of the $1.8 million in property-tax revenue the district has obtained in the past year.

But Superintendent Dennis Williams was optimistic that teacher morale is up since negotiations closed.

“The few first-hand comments that I have heard have been very positive,” he said. “Teachers are happy to now be able to focus on the kids and not have to worry about meetings. Everyone is obviously pleased that we have reached an agreement, and has been appreciative of each other’s teams and the efforts put forth.”

Tahoe Truckee High School teacher Larry Leatherman agreed.

“It’s nice to see the district move a little bit,” Leatherman said. “Most teachers are just ready to get back to their students and what we are really trying to accomplish here.”

However, Leatherman also noted that the teachers’ vote to approve the proposed contract was not unanimous.

“We might be getting close to even [with other basic aid schools] with this salary proposal, but some teachers still feel behind,” he said. “There is certainly a concern over sky-high medical cost increases. And I think there is a feeling that ‘If the district was able to find [7 percent] in a tough money year, they should be able to find more money in a better year.'”

Beginning at tonight’s meeting, preliminary discussions leading to the next round of cost of living negotiations will get underway ” this time with classified employees, such as bus drivers, secretaries, and custodians.

Also taking place at the district meeting will be the appointment of a new school board member to replace Cindy Gustafson, who left the board to take a position with California’s Department Fish and Game Commission.

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