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Findings of Panel Awaited in Tustin Teacher Dispute

October 22, 1985|BILL BILLITER | Times Staff Writer

Tustin Unified School District's contract dispute with its teachers remains in the hands of a state-directed fact-finding panel, but the panel's report is not likely until at least a month from now, district and union officials said Monday.

Both sides hope that the three-person panel can come up with a recommendation that will solve the 18-month-old dispute between Tustin Unified's 400 teachers and the school board.

The teachers went on a six-day strike Oct. 2 after declaring that the board was refusing to negotiate. The teachers, saying that they are the worst paid in Orange County, are asking for a 6.3% pay raise retroactive to July 1, when their last contract expired. The teachers are also seeking an 8.1% pay raise for the current school year.

The school board on Sept. 26 presented what it called its "final offer," a proposed 8.2% pay raise for the current school year and "not less than 4%" for 1986-87. The board declined to propose a retroactive pay raise, noting that the teachers last June voted down a 3.8% offer.

When the teachers voted to suspend their strike Oct. 9, they also voted to seek the ouster of the five school board members. Two members are up for reelection Nov. 5; the teachers vowed to recall the other three.

Non-Binding Recommendation

The teachers' union and the school district entered into a state-sponsored fact-finding process on Oct. 14. It involves three persons--one chosen by the union, one by the district and one agreed upon by both sides. The panel reviews the facts in the dispute, then makes a non-binding recommendation.

"I don't expect the fact-finding report before mid-November at the earliest," said Tustin schools Supt. Maurice Ross on Monday. Sandy Banis, president of the Tustin Educators Assn., said she agreed it would be at least that long before a report is due "and it may be around Christmas before we get it."

Meanwhile, Ross made available district figures on teacher pay that show that 60% of Tustin Unified's teachers earn annual salaries in excess of $30,000. He said the top salary for a teacher in the district in 1983-84 was $32,448.

Earlier figures from the Orange County Department of Education and published in The Times showed that Tustin teachers who had 60 units of graduate credit and at least 10 years' experience earn a maximum of $29,564 a year.

Ross said $29,564, in fact, is not the district's maximum annual salary. He noted that Tustin, unlike many of the other districts, has pay brackets for teachers who have exceeded 60 graduate units--the maximum pay category used by the Orange County Department of Education. "We pay teachers for up to 80 (graduate) units," Ross said.

Ross also said that because Tustin has so many veteran teachers with many years of teaching experience, the majority are at the upper end of the pay scale. District figures show that Tustin Unified has few teachers who are paid the beginning-teacher wage "because we have very few new teachers--most of ours have been with us for many years."

Upper End of the Scale

"We know a lot of teachers are at the upper end (of the pay scale)," Banis said Monday. "But other districts also have senior teachers and have managed to give pay raises."

Ross and Lawrence Sutherland, business manager for the Tustin Unified School District, acknowledged Monday that Tustin's maximum teacher pay this year of $32,448 is the lowest among the 11 unified school districts in Orange County. But they said this is because the teachers refused the district's 3.8% pay raise offer in June. They said maximum teacher pay in Tustin would continue to rank high had the teachers accepted the 3.8% pay raise instead of voting it down.

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