South City teachers get raises: Tentative agreement comes after months of rough bargaining talks
April 01, 2017, 05:00 AM By Austin Walsh Daily
Following a contentious bout of negotiations over the past year, the South San Francisco Unified School District tentatively agreed to a pay raise offer from officials.
The initial deal announced Thursday, March 23, offers teachers a 2 percent raise for the 2016-17 fiscal year, plus a matching pay hike the following year. The deal still stands to be approved by the teachers union and district Board of Trustees before becoming official.
Superintendent Shawnterra Moore praised the collaboration required to reach an agreement, despite the occasionally tense bargaining positions taken prior to the settlement.
“Following 11 months of negotiations, we are grateful to all members of the negotiating teams for their hard work, dedication and collaborative spirit,” she said in a prepared statement. “We know this has been a challenging time for our district, and we appreciate and respect your patience.”
School board President Rosa Acosta echoed a similar sentiment in an email.
“We are committed to providing students with a high quality education and therefore, we base our decisions on what is in the best interest of our students,” she said. “I’m pleased that we were able to offer a salary increase to [California Teachers Association] members. As members of the board, we will always put the needs of our students at the center of everything we do.”
Under ratification by both sides, teachers will ultimately accept a 7 percent raise in the current fiscal year because the 2 percent will be added to a 5 percent raise accepted a couple years ago.
District teachers earned an average of $68,716 last year, which is comparable to other county unified school districts such as Cabrillo where teachers last year earned $68,763 and La Honda-Pescadero where the average teacher salary was $65,832 last year, according to the county Office of Education.
The announcement comes following almost one year of talks featuring occasional rough patches, such as multiple occasions when teachers would flood board meetings and call for more money.
Teachers had claimed the wages offered by officials were insufficient to address the escalating cost of living across the Peninsula, frequently resulting in the most qualified leaving to other, higher paying opportunities nearby.
The issue came to a head earlier this year when teachers began limiting their availability after school, leading to students rallying alongside their teachers in the quest for a salary hike. In solidarity, some students marched to the district offices in hopes of persuading administrators to pay teachers more.
Teachers frustrated with officials during the bargaining process repeatedly pointed to the district reserves as a potential source of funding from which to draw money for pay hikes. Officials countered those arguments by claiming a healthy savings fund must be preserved to protect against the threat of an economic downturn.
The tentative agreement offers perks to others beyond those in the teachers union too, as hourly rates for workers will increase to $45. There will also be a reduction in the amount of semesters required to work for a teacher to move up in their salary schedule.
The variety of benefits offered in the contract speaks to officials’ dedication to addressing the needs of teachers and other staff, said Moore.
“The tentative agreement … exemplifies the board’s commitment to the district, our staff and students,” she said.
The raise, should it be approved, would be the second struck in the district over the past couple years. In 2015, the two sides agreed to a 10 percent raise divided equally across two years.
Moore said she hoped the new deal would ultimately be approved by both the union and the school board, so all sides could put the issue to rest and the focus can go squarely to fulfilling the best interest of local students.
“Our hope is that we can now return our full attention to our passion and purpose; providing the best educational opportunities for our students, delivered by a highly qualified and professional teaching force,” she said.
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