|School district declares impasse
THE MID-COUNTY MEMO
Despite settling with its classified employees earlier this month, the declaration moves the district a step closer to a possible strike with its certified employees.
The teachers' contract expired July 1. The district and the Parkrose Faculty Association have failed to reach an agreement despite nearly a year of negotiations.
The district has to wait 37 days before calling a special board meeting to unilaterally implement the teachers' current contract. If the board votes to take this step after April 11, the union has five days to either accept the contract, or call for a strike vote.
Money is always an issue between school districts and teachers.
Citing cuts in funding and the necessity to balance the budget with a cut to the school year, the district is offering no increases in anything. Fischer Gray said the district's proposals are aimed at avoiding program cuts, larger class sizes and further teacher layoffs. I want a settlement and I don't want to hurt the students, she said. I do not want to go to unilateral implementation and I do not want my teachers to strike. They (teachers) have to look realistically at what is going on, she added.
PFA representative Jerry Landreth, a fifth grade teacher at Sacramento Elementary, said the results of the district's annual audit shows there is discretionary money to meet the union request for step increases in salary and insurance contribution increases. We feel like we've met all of their financial concerns, Landreth said. It's not like they have millions of dollars, but there is a little money available, but they don't want to go there either.
Landreth said the union understands there is no money for raises, but wants teachers' previously bargained-for salary step increases (step increases are based on years of service; about half the teachers in the district are stepped out) taking effect this year and last. The union is also asking for an 8 percent increase in the district's insurance cap contribution in the second year of the contract; the district offers none. The union has offered to cut eight days this school year and two the next. The district wants to cut 10 days this year.
Teachers took their scheduled step-advancement in salary despite Fischer Gray's warning there was no money for it in the budget. We're in the middle of bargaining, status quo allows them to take it, Fischer Gray said. It doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. And, we told them we didn't have the money for it.
If the school board votes to implement its offer, the district wants the teachers to pay back the automatic salary increases.
Landreth said the union has made significant concessions cutting days, professional development and insurance increases. We were willing to do that, but it doesn't seem right they want us to pay back this experience step. We're either going to get this settled or we're going to be walking in the middle of April.
According to the Oregon School Board Association website, in 2009, of the metropolitan area's 15 school districts, about 20 percent of Parkrose teachers receive $62,415, the second highest average annual max salary, ranking them behind Riverdale teachers. For comparison, in the same survey, David Douglas teachers ranked sixth and Portland teachers eighth. Landreth said in 2010 they dropped to fifth, and if they cut ten days this year, it would drop the 37 or so teachers even farther in the rankings.
Another issue for teachers is their workload. Landreth said the district wants to direct more than half their available time in the day. Teachers want a more equitable sharing between what the district is requiring and what teachers feel they need to do to get their jobs done. In order to meet the district's higher expectations, Landreth said teachers feel they do not have enough time to make quality lessons happen in today's diverse classrooms. We feel like our workload is difficult; they're directing so much of our time, we don't have enough time to figure out what we need to do to continually be effective in the classroom, Landreth said.
Fischer Gray said she is not convinced there is a teacher workload issue.
The next school board meeting is Monday, April 2. Another mediation session is scheduled for April 4.
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