Teachers don’t feel they are a priority | SierraSun.com

Teachers don’t feel they are a priority

In addition to the crowd of people who came out for the release of an audit on Prosser Creek Charter School at last Wednesday’s school board meeting, a handful of district teachers were also in attendance to express some of their own concerns.

The common thread included: rising health care costs, shrinking benefits and the need for teachers to be made a priority in this year’s budget.

“The agreement made at the end of last year was to begin negotiations for this year by Sept. 15 and to have the district present its last, best and final offer by Nov. 30,” said teacher Jan Tice. “At this point, we’re five weeks away from that deadline and nowhere near meeting that goal.

“We began the year with hope that the district would put us first this year when planning it’s budget. We, as teachers, should not be dealing with these distractions. We want an early settlement.”

Last year’s negotiations, which dragged on for more than nine months, finally ended in June, after classes had already finished for summer.

The final agreement included: a 2.36 percent increase in the salary schedule, stipends for speech and language personnel, 67 percent of all dollars remaining that are beyond the district’s 4 percent designated reserve for economic uncertainty and a $24.10 per month increase in the district’s contribution towards health benefits.

“I love teaching. I love Tahoe,” said one teacher from Sierra Mountain Middle School. “But decreasing benefits and increasing costs points to the reality that continuing to live here might not be an option. And, I am not alone in this.”

In efforts to increase the efficiency of negotiations for the 2002-03 year, TTEA presented the district with a list of contract proposals for the upcoming year back in June.

Those proposals included:

* An increase in salary schedule equivalent to State COLA, plus 1.15 percent to compensate for the below average salary settlement this year.

* An increase in stipends paid for athletic and other extra-curricular activities, funded independent of the teacher’s compensation package.

* A shift in payment of insurance premiums, from a flat dollar cap to an 80-to-20 percent, district to teacher ratio (as proposed this past session).

“Both sides have been meeting two times a month to work on this,” said TTEA Bargaining Chair Sherrie Ebyam. “I think there is really a desire on both sides to end this thing early. So far, things have been going okay. I’m always optimistic.”

After the public comment period closed at last week’s meeting, board members thanked the teachers for their comments.

“We want you to know that the board is always listening,” said Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Board President Mel Cone.