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Tustin Teachers to Start Year Without Contract

December 28, 1985|BILL BILLITER | Times Staff Writer

Tustin's teachers, the only teachers in California to strike this school year, will enter 1986 without a contract, union and school board officials said Friday.

No new contract proposals will be discussed until a state-supervised "fact-finding" panel completes its work, probably in late January or early February, according to spokesmen for both sides.

The last contract for the 400 teachers in the Tustin Unified School District expired June 30, 1984. Subsequent negotiations for a new contract collapsed, the prime reason for this year's Oct. 2-10 strike, teachers said.

Union and school district officials both said that despite the strike-related tensions of October, Tustin's schools have functioned smoothly and teacher morale has been good since the strike ended.

However, Sandy Banis, president of the Tustin Educators Assn., the teachers' union, said Friday that the teachers still distrust Supt. Maurice Ross and want to see him leave. By contrast, Jane Bauer, a new school board member who was endorsed by the teachers and elected Nov. 5, said Friday that she thinks Ross has been "quite responsive."

Ross' three-year contract doesn't expire until June, 1987, Bauer said, and so there will be no immediate discussion by the five-member school board on whether he should be retained.

In a separate interview, Ross said that being a target of union criticism "just goes with the territory. . . . The union leadership is mad at me because I had to tell them no (on their requests for higher salaries)." Ross said he does not detect a lack of support from the school board, including the two new members elected with union endorsements.

He also predicted that the fact-finding panel's report next month will vindicate his claim that the school district simply didn't have the money this year to grant the pay increases sought by the teachers' union.

Ross said the school district couldn't afford the 6.3% retroactive pay increase sought by teachers for last year, nor the 8.1% pay hike they requested for the current school year. The school district's last offer, before negotiations collapsed in late September, was for an 8.2% pay raise this year and a pledge of "not less than 4%" in 1986-87.

But the union charged that more money would be available if Ross and the old school board "got their priorities right." The fact-finding board has studied school finance documents and taken testimony from all sides in the dispute in the hopes of settling the quarrel.

Panel's Members

As with all state-supervised fact-finding panels, there are three persons focusing on the Tustin issue: a representative from the school district, one from the teachers' union and a neutral party who both union and management agreed on.

The fact-finding panel has already held several hearings to gather evidence, and it will meet in closed session Jan. 3 and possibly several more times before issuing its recommendations, Bauer said, adding: "I'm hoping by February that we'll have their recommendation."

Banis, the union president, said in a separate interview that teachers "don't foresee any miracle" stemming from the fact-finders' report but hope that it will lead, finally, to a settlement.

But that meeting of the minds could be as elusive as ever.

Union Leader Blames Ross

"Our last contract expired June 30, 1984, and now we're moving into 1986, still without a contract," said Banis, who blamed Ross for much of the problem because "he just doesn't believe in collective bargaining.

"The election in November showed that the people in the community want the community to take control again of the schools," Banis said.

She added that better management by Ross would have avoided the friction over money and also charged that the superintendent has been selectively "filtering" information to the school board and in effect "controlling" the board.

Ross denied these charges, stressing that Tustin Unified has little money available because of declining student enrollment.

"I'm the same superintendent who recommended 9.6% and 9.2% pay raises for the teachers (in past years)," Ross said. "But I said then that a bad year would be coming when there wouldn't be the money for a large pay raise, and I asked the union leadership then to remember that. Apparently they didn't."

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