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Tentative Teacher Pact Averts Strike in Beverly Hills

March 20, 1986|JOHN L. MITCHELL | Times Staff Writer

Beverly Hills school officials and teachers Wednesday reached a tentative contract agreement and avoided a one-day strike authorized by members of the teachers union earlier this week.

No details of the two-year pact were disclosed, but both sides appeared optimistic after emerging from eight hours of closed-door sessions at school board headquarters.

Teachers association President Kenneth Eaves said his negotiating team would recommend acceptance when teachers vote on the accord today. "The agreement as it stands is livable, realistic and represents an honest compromise," he said.

Supt. Leon Lessinger had been confident before the Wednesday talks, noting that "there is a sense of reasonableness on both sides." He echoed those sentiments after the agreement was announced.

Both Sides Doubtful

Earlier this week, however, both sides were doubtful about reaching an accord. The Beverly Hills Education Assn. had voted 207 to 64 Monday to reject what the district had called its "last and final offer." And the district had insisted that it would not make another offer, raising the possibility of the first strike in school district history.

Neither side would comment on what changed the situation.

The district wants to cut back its highly rated educational program to balance its budget. The teachers, who are among the highest paid in the state, have been unwilling to go along with some of the proposed reductions.

Contract talks began last May, but reached an impasse during the summer. An independent fact-finder was brought in to help break the deadlock. Some compromises have been reached, but a few areas of disagreement remain. The district's final offer was made at a marathon bargaining session two weeks ago.

The teachers agreed to accept the district's proposed 5% salary increase. The increase would be retroactive to June and raise the average teacher salary in the district to $38,300. A teacher at the top of the salary scale would earn $41,921.

The main dispute has centered on the district's proposal to eliminate a contract provision that makes it difficult to reduce the size of the district's specialist staff, which teaches music, art, technical arts, home economics, physical education, reading, foreign language and handles counseling.

Right to Future Cuts

The Board of Education has said it will not cut any of these programs in the next school year but it wants to reserve the right to make future cuts without contract limitations.

"I know of no other contract in the state that has that kind of language regarding specialists," said Walther Puffer, assistant superintendent for personnel. "If we were to allow (the provision) in the new contract, then specialists would be super-protected if we have to make new cuts." He said a math or science teacher would have less job protection than an art teacher.

But James Quider, an El Rodeo School science teacher and member of the negotiating team, said that layoffs are made on the basis of seniority, not by position. He said the teachers are more concerned about how the elimination of the clause would affect educational programs in the district.

Teachers charge that the district wants the provision dropped so that officials will be able to lay off employees and reduce programs. They also fear that the loss of the specialists would increase their workload.

School officials said that future layoffs and program cuts may be necessary to balance the district's $26-million 1986-87 budget. Layoff notices have been sent to 12 temporary teachers who are hired each year as replacements for teachers who are on leave.

Needs to Raise Money

Last week John Scoggin, assistant superintendent of business services for the district, said that the district needs to raise $1 million by September to avoid further cuts.

The two sides also disagree over a district proposal to increase teaching time by 100 minutes a week. All teachers now teach 1,250 minutes. Under the proposal, a few high school teachers would teach 1,350 minutes a week, as would all lower-grade teachers.

School officials said that the increased instructional time is necessary to meet state requirements. Teachers want uniform time in all classrooms.

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