Teachers plea with school board for more pay | SierraSun.com

Teachers plea with school board for more pay

More than 40 teachers line up outside the school board meeting at Sierra Mountain Middle School on Wednesday.

The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District and the Tahoe Truckee Education Association will meet next month with a state-appointed mediator to settle on teacher contracts and cost-of-living increases.

After four meetings since April, district and teacher representatives have been unable to come to an agreement on the 2006-07 academic year contracts. Teachers are now in their sixth month without a contract.

More than 25 teachers, as well as a student and a bus driver, pleaded with the school board for nearly two hours Wednesday night to give the teachers a fair contract. Teachers relayed stories of financial hardship, working for far less pay than their counterparts in other districts, and expressed concern of not being able to recruit or retain young teachers due to low pay. One teacher even led the packed room in a sing-a-long union song from the 1930s meant to sway the board.

“I knew I was taking a $5,000 pay cut to come here,” said Kings Beach Elementary teacher Tara House. “What I didn’t know is that this district would continue to slip more and more. You are not just giving us a contract this year. You are making up for all the years that we have been shafted since I have been here.”

Others said they felt teacher morale was the lowest it had been in the 10 years since the teachers have had to negotiate contracts every year.

“We hear you and we empathize with your situation,” Board President Kristy Olk told the teachers. “We know how crippling it is. It may not happen overnight, but it’s going to happen. You are our most important assets. We recognize our salary schedule is way below where it needs to be.”

Olk said the district is committed to meet the 7.5 percent cost-of-living increase the teachers asked for in April.

“We are doing our best,” Olk said. “Eighty percent of the new money that has come in this year has gone to salaries.”

The district has agreed to match the 7.5 percent cost-of-living adjustment as long as the teachers agree to work 15 minutes more each day, which the teachers voiced Wednesday as being “insulting” and indicated they work longer than eight hours a day already.

Jim Driscoll, president of the Tahoe Truckee Education Association, said teachers requested the 7.5 percent cost-of-living increase in April before they knew the district’s figures. He said the district has been “uncooperative” in releasing their financial figures to the teachers, but that he believes the district can pay twice the amount the teachers have asked for.

“We’re hoping to settle in mediation session. We are reasonable and we’re hoping to settle,” Driscoll said. “Of all the years I have been teaching, this is the most disrespected I have felt. We know they have the money and they are holding us to the 7.5 percent. They have never been forthcoming with the numbers. It is disrespectful and it shows a callousness.”

Driscoll would not say if the teachers union is asking for more of an increase from the district, but he said the state average for cost-of-living adjustment is 7.99 percent.

Assistant Superintendent Jo Wilson, who is part of the district’s negotiating team, would not release any information because of confidentiality agreements. Wilson said both sides are scheduled to meet with a state-appointed mediator Jan. 19.

“This has been hard,” Wilson said. “It’s been tough.”

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