A state mediator said this week that he will request appointment of a fact-finding panel to negotiate a contract dispute between the Glendale Unified School District and its support services staff.
Mediator Ian Walke, who has been unable to settle the dispute during a month of talks, said a hearing should be set within a month before a representative of the state Public Employment Relations Board. Although a settlement could be reached in the interim, Walke said that was "highly unlikely" in Glendale's case.
The two sides have been haggling since September, when the district agreed to give its teachers a 10.6% pay raise but did not offer the same increase to counselors, nurses and speech therapists. In the past, contracts generally have provided the same benefits for teachers and support-service employees.
However, this year the district offered counselors a raise of 5.6% and proposed an increase of 8.5% for nurses and speech therapists.
The wage dispute hinges on the interpretation of a 1983 state law that took effect this school year. The law was designed to toughen school curricula by lengthening the school year by about a week and increasing the average time students spend in each class by about 10 minutes.
The 43 support-services employees say the law requires them to spend more time with students and increases their workload.
But Charles Duncan, the district's director of personnel and employee relations, said the intent of the law was to increase the amount of time that students actually spend with teachers, rather than in matters handled by support-services employees.
Added Class Time
The contract settlement hammered out last year with teachers included a 2.9% raise for the added class time and a 2% increase for the extra week of work. However, the district did not offer counselors any increase for the extra time spent at school this year and proposed increases to nurses and speech therapists based only on the added week.
Duncan acknowledged that support-service employees may be spending more time with students this year. But he asserted that, unlike teachers, they are not required to do so.
Donald King, spokesman for the Glendale Support Services Assn., said, "It's interesting that the district admits we may be working longer but isn't willing to pay us for the extra time."
The fact-finding panel requested by Walke will consist of one representative from the district, one from the support-services association and a hearing officer whom the two parties will select from the Public Employment Relations Board staff.