School district agreement saves more than 20 teacher jobs | SierraSun.com

School district agreement saves more than 20 teacher jobs

Kyle Magin
Sierra Sun

Ryan Slabaugh/Sierra SunJon Halvorsen, vice president of the Tahoe Truckee Education Association, described being able to keep more teachers employed as "emotional".

TRUCKEE/TAHOE “-The school district and teacher’s union sat across the same table Thursday to announce a settlement that will save eight more teacher positions and avoid a battle in court.

While discussing a situation neither would describe as “ideal,” the district leaders also agreed that neither side speak to the media independently of the other. In a rare display of unity, district and teacher representatives explained it together Thursday at the district’s main offices.

The agreement means the district ” which is facing a $4 million budget deficit for the upcoming school year ” can decrease the amount of full-time equivalent positions being cut from about 42 to about 34, or 39 total people. The resolution saves eight full-time equivalents, totaling 22 teachers, who were originally told they might lose their jobs.

In turn, the teachers agreed not to take the school district to court over the layoffs, as they’d previously planned.

Jon Halvorsen, vice president of the Tahoe Truckee Education Association, described being able to keep more teachers employed as “emotional”.

David Inns, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources at the district, said the deal, which included an expansion of an early-retirement settlement, as best for the district and the teachers.

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Halvorsen said convincing the teachers who are to be laid off was difficult, but said many were happy to have some absolution.

“We had to have every single one sign the agreement, and it was still an emotional, tough meeting,” Halvorsen said. “But now they don’t have to wait for May 15 to know their future. They can go ahead now and look for other work or make some decisions about staying here and waiting to see if the incentive allows them to get hired back.”

The settlement, Inns said, is cost-neutral for the district, but also shows more goodwill between the parties, which have often threatened lawsuits and openly disagreed on district issues.

“This gives reassurance to the teachers and it doesn’t keep them in limbo any longer,” Halvorsen said. “It shows we’re continuing to work together to address the issues we’re both faced with.”

Inns said the move signals a positive step for both sides.

“Having this work out in the way it did helps us further our relationship with the TTEA in a positive aspect,” Inns said.

An early-retirement offer by the district was reinstated and expanded to include almost all teachers who had put in 11 years of service and who make as much as $71,000 each year. The previous incentive was only available to those making more than $77,000 each year and were within three years of retirement. It remains on the table until May 29 and could net a teacher up to $25,000 in a one-time payout. As teachers accept the offer, Inns said, a laid-off teacher can be seamlessly rehired.

“We are working together to save teachers’ jobs,” Inns said.

The new incentive is available now to slightly more than 100 teachers, whereas the first was available to a pool of about 40. The teacher’s association, through President Mike Merriman, had originally said the deal wasn’t enough to entice teachers to retire.

But Halvorsen said he’d heard from teachers who wanted to take the deal and weren’t eligible the first time around, bolstering his hopes that teachers will accept the incentive.

For the first 15 teachers to accept the deal, each will be rewarded with a $15,000, one-time payout. If 20-29 accept the incentive, they will receive $20,000. And, if 30-plus take the incentive, they’ll receive a $25,000, one-time payout.

The rehire process will go according to credentials and seniority (i.e. if a science teacher accepts the incentive, the senior-most science teacher on the layoff list will be offered the vacant position).