By Maureen Robertson
A meeting in Glendale that lasted until midnight had the desired result — a tentative agreement between the school district and teachers union.
The two-year agreement, expected to be ratified by both sides this week, ends the threat of a teachers strike. It comes after nearly two years of negotiations, mediation, a state-sanctioned hearing, and a three-year imposition by the district calling for an average of 9 percent cuts through the 2014-15 school year.
The agreement covers this school year and 2013-14, ending on June 30, 2014. It restores full paychecks to teachers this month, and for next school year calls for 5.5 furlough days, teachers contributing 15 percent to their health benefits, the district not reimbursing teachers for their 20 percent co-insurance for hospital in-patient services, and discontinuing the $1,500 annual incentive the district has paid for teachers to waive medical coverage.
The agreement includes restoration language if the district receives additional money.
Cuts this year total 4.06 percent and 8.9 percent next school year, according to a synopsis of the agreement Ramona Teachers Association provided teachers. This is less than the district’s imposition of a 7.82 percent cut this year and 9.4 percent for the next two school years. The cuts were not cumulative.
“Reaching the tentative agreement has avoided costly litigation over the district’s imposition and the trauma of a strike on students, the community and RTA members,” said Donna Braye-Romero, RTA president. “This tentative agreement brings a settlement that is within the realm of reason for both parties.”
Teachers were scheduled to vote on the settlement on Tuesday. Trustees are scheduled to vote at their meeting on June 6.
“This effort reflects compromise and commitment by both parties in working together on behalf of the students and families of Ramona’s public schools,” Superintendent Bob Graeff said.
The agreement was reached after lengthy talks at the May 29 meeting called by the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) in Glendale.
“PERB contacted both parties believing that an injunction was going to be filed and suggested a settlement conference,” Graeff said last Tuesday.
The California Teachers Association filed an injunction on behalf of RTA on Friday, May 24.
“We are hopeful that the RTA membership will ratify it,” school board president Bob Stoody said in an email early Thursday morning, May 30. “...I understand that all negotiators (from both sides) are exhausted and are driving back from the PERB office in LA. They apparently all listened to the (Ramona) Parents Coalition and didn’t come home until an agreement was reached.”
Also in an email, members of the parents coalition said, “We want to take this time to profusely thank both sides for the difficult choices they certainly had to make. And thank all of you, parents and residents, for your efforts. We had received emails from both sides that our voices were being heard.”
The agreement provides for a reasonable compromise between the RTA and district, states Ramona Parents Coalition’s overview of the agreement. The coalition, a group of six mothers who, alarmed at the breakdown in negotiations between the district and RTA, spent six weeks asking questions, digging into public records and double-checking facts. They presented their findings in a community meeting attended by about 100 people on May 22.
“We truly believe it was community involvement that gave the negotiating teams the encouragement they needed to reach an agreement,” the coalition stated in its overview of the agreement. “Let’s keep it going!”
The coalition encourages visits to its Facebook page.
The June 6 school board meeting is scheduled to start at 7:15 p.m. in the Wilson Administrative Center,720 Ninth St. Prior to the meeting, the district will hold an Employee Recognition Ceremony for retirees, teachers of the year and support staff employees of the year. The ceremony will start at 6:30 p.m. in the Wilson center.