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Teacher salary settlement reached

Sherry Mays

Teachers and the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District teachers reached an agreement Friday, ending the months-long debate over salaries and benefits.

Both board and Tahoe-Truckee Education Association representatives are breathing deep sighs of relief that negotiations, at this time, are complete.

“It’s great to be able to move from that process,” TTUSD board member Suzanne Prouty said. “It was a difficult time for everyone.”

Board President John Wojcik said after many months of negotiations, with no end in sight, the board and the teachers association agreed to meet with another facilitator in addition to the assigned state mediator. He said waiting until April 9 for the mediator was too long.

“We didn’t want to negotiate outside of the agreement with the state,” he said. “Both sides realized we needed to do something sooner than planned. We both were anxious to come to an agreement.”

The agreement includes:

— A retroactive 2.68 percent salary increase effective July 1, 1997.

— An 8 percent salary increase effective July 1, 1998.

— Employee-only vision care and Delta dental plan. Subject to the carrier enrollment schedule, the district agrees to provide a vision care program mutually determined by the district and the association, and to increase the coverage limit on the dental program to $2,000 annually.

These additions and modifications do not change the $385 monthly district contribution toward the insurance program.

The date of the ratification is valid through June 30, 2000, and a mandatory commencement of bargaining will be scheduled for no later than Jan. 10, 1999.

By agreeing to these conditions, the teachers and district avoided a lengthy fact-finding stage in negotiations that would have generated a written report by the state, further separating relationships.

Reina Markheim, Tahoe-Truckee Education Association representative, thanked the board for its decision to move negotiations ahead at last night’s school board meeting. In the absence of TTEA President Irene Baker, Markheim conveyed a sense of satisfaction reflected in the association’s vote to ratify the agreement.

She said she thought the agreement was fair and that the association will work with the board in the future to decide on new tactics for negotiating in the future.

Both the board and the teachers agreed the last set of negotiations were not as positive as they wished it to be.

“All I can say is we are glad it’s over,” Baker

said. “We can now move onward.”

Jean Fournier, a 4th-grade teacher at Rideout Elementary, said the teachers are supportive of the agreement.

“The overall membership (TTEA) seems pleased,” Fournier said. “It is positive to see that when people work together on a common goal, positive things happen.”

She said the association’s membership was more united this year and said she and other TTEA leaders will work on keeping more membership unity, awareness and involvement into the future.

The TTEA membership numbers about 270, and of that, roughly 185 voted in favor of the agreement.

According to the association, the 2.68 percent increase will show effective in the April 30 paychecks, and retroactive checks will be issued mid-May.

Before the agreement, teachers and the district board were at an impasse over salary increases. Teachers requested a 9.38 increase. The board had approved a budgeted increase of 2 percent over the 2.65 step increase, totaling 4.65 percent effective July 1, 1998.

“It’s our time” was the teacher’s motto through the negotiations, claiming the district’s priorities did not include teacher salaries.

Prouty said that was difficult to hear.

“To think that the board didn’t care about teachers hurt,” she said. “Teachers and students are always the No. 1 priority. There’s no question about that.”

Prouty and Wojcik agreed that questions arise when additional funding is a concern.

Sierra Sun E-mail: sun@tahoe.com

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