Ramona teachers endorse one-year contract settlement; district wants three-year agreement

Fact-finding judge recommends three-year agreement

By Maureen Robertson

In an after-school general membership meeting held April 11, an overwhelming majority of Ramona Teachers Association members approved their bargaining team’s recommendation to accept a 4.4 percent pay cut from six unpaid furlough days, plus some cuts in health and welfare benefits.

“Ramona teachers accept these cuts based on the fact finder’s recommendations for settling the 2012-2013 contract, so it’s time now for the district to follow suit,” said RTA President Donna Braye-Romero.

The approval came after a 24-page fact finding report not expected to be released to the public until next week, if then, was uploaded to the RTA website, ramonateachers.com. Also on the website was a six-page dissenting report from Margaret Wallace, RTA’s selection as one of three fact finding panel members. Ramona Unified selected John Gray from School Services of California to represent it on the panel, and Bonnie Castrey served as the impartial judge.

The fact finding panel met Feb. 27-28 after negotiations between the teachers and district failed.

Castrey sided with the district in many of her recommendations, prefacing them with background, applicable laws, how Ramona Unified compares with other districts in the region, and issues such as the district’s ability to meet its financial obligations and whether an agreement should be for just this year or for three years.

Castrey recommended an agreement that re-opens RTA’s current contract with the district as well as two additional years.

“A three-year agreement would provide a time of stabilization of the parties relationship and time to work on the serious health and welfare issues they face,” she wrote.

She recommends six unpaid furlough days this year and the next two years. Two would be staff development days and four would be student days at the end of the school year, “so that if monies allow in any school year, the days can be restored to the work year and the student’s class time.”

The district pays 100 percent of health and welfare premiums for its teachers, with costs ranging from $4,988 a year for an employee only to $17,955 a year for an employee and his or her spouse and dependents.

“The (Ramona) district is one of only two of the 22 comparison districts which pays 100 percent of health care benefits,” said Castrey.

She recommends the district pay 85 percent of benefit premiums and teachers 15 percent. She recommends the district stop giving $1,500 a year to teachers who do not participate in the health plan and that the district stop reimbursing teachers the 20 percent co-payment for hospital in-patient services. Both benefits can be re-evaluated at the end of the three-year agreement.

If the teachers and district agree to the benefit change and furlough days, Castrey recommends leaving class size as is.

Both the Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) and legal counsel have advised RTA that the district cannot legally impose wage and benefits concessions beyond the scope of bargaining for the current 2012-2013 school year, said Friday’s statement from RTA.

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