MONROVIA — For the first time in the 10-year history of collective bargaining at the Monrovia Unified School District, teachers and the administration have signed a contract before the previous contract expired.
Ever since collective bargaining replaced informal negotiation in 1976, relations between the district and the Monrovia Teachers Assn. have been marked by distrust and hostility, with contracts expiring at the end of August and teachers beginning the new school year without an contract.
Teachers staged a one-day walkout in November, 1980, and went on strike for three days in October, 1983.
The contract for the school year that ended last week was not signed until January, two weeks after the school board forced Supt. Gwen Collier, whose seven-year tenure was marked by teacher unrest, to resign.
Salary a Major Issue
Low salaries and protracted contract negotiations had been the most serious factor in hostility between teachers and the administration, district and teacher representatives have said.
Teacher salaries were the major issue in the November school board election, in which the two pro-administration incumbents decided not to run for reelection.
The result was a board unanimous in stating that it wanted solve the problems of low salaries and the administration's method of dealing with teachers.
Salaries in Monrovia had ranked near the bottom of the 43 school districts in the county until the 1985-86 contract was signed, providing a 10.7% salary increase retroactive to September.
Jump in Pay
That brought teachers up to a ranking of about 30, and at the time the school board issued a statement that its goal was to try to move Monrovia teachers to the county median maximum of $35,261 within five years. The current maximum for Monrovia teachers is $34,448.
The current agreement, signed June 11 after about five months of negotiations, calls for teachers to receive salary increases equal to the cost-of-living adjustment the state gives to the district.
For example, said Louise Taylor, director of certificated personnel, if the state increases the funds it gives the district for average daily attendance by 5%, teachers would receive a 5% salary increase.
The contract runs for two years, which also is highly unusual.
Teachers Were Opposed
"We have not had a multiyear contract since the first year of collective bargaining because the teachers have always been opposed," said John Connot, president of the Monrovia Teachers Assn.
"I think we are bringing teachers to the county median," Taylor said, "but it will depend on agreements other school districts reach with their teachers."
Before 1976, districts had what they called "meet and consult" sessions with teachers to discuss pay, but there were no contracts or formal negotiations.
Both the administration and teachers expressed pleasure and relief at the signing of the new contract.
"I felt the two teams worked together to resolve the problems rather than taking opposite stands on the issues," Taylor said.
"Now we have a school board and superintendent in whom we have trust and confidence so it made the bargaining process that much easier," said Connot.
"It is very pleasant to look forward to a summer without worrying when or whether a contract will be signed," he said.
The district serves 9,000 students and has an annual budget of $14 million.