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Teachers Quit Negotiating With District; Time an Issue

March 23, 1989|MARTHA L. WILLMAN | Times Staff Writer

The union representing teachers has broken off talks with the Glendale Unified School District, despite being near agreement on wages, in part because the union wants elementary school teachers to get time during the school day to handle grading and other paper work.

The action, taken as schools recessed for the one-week spring break Friday, could delay for months a settlement between the district and 960 teachers, who have been working without a contract since June. The impasse is the first in the district in 10 years.

Mark Desetti, president of the Glendale Teachers Assn., called the district's final contract offer, which would provide an increase of 22.7% in wages and benefits over three years, "fairly good." But Desetti said the offer still leaves a $2-million gap between the district's offer and the union's goals.

Meanwhile, the district's maintenance and custodial workers Tuesday tentatively accepted an offer similar to the one rejected by the teachers. Their agreement gives about 200 workers a 22.7% salary increase over three years, with the first year's 8% pay raise retroactive to Sept. 1.

April 8 Vote

Denny Hanberry, head of the negotiating team for the maintenance workers unit of the California School Employees Assn., said the union is "very pleased" with the tentative agreement. He called the contract talks "the smoothest negotiations we have had" in the eight years that he has represented the union. Members are scheduled to vote on the agreement April 8.

District officials said the impasse in teacher negotiations, on the other hand, may jeopardize the district's offer to grant an 8% pay raise this year retroactive to September.

Charles Duncan, district director of personnel and employee relations, said the Los Angeles County counsel has ruled that retroactive pay can be granted only if an agreement is reached and approved by the Board of Education by June 30. He said appointment of a mediator to break the impasse and the fact-finding procedure that follows could take weeks or months.

Duncan called the district's offer "extremely generous and precedent-setting."

Both the union and the school district have scheduled special meetings Monday to discuss their options.

Despite the expected delay, the union rejected the district's final offers because they fail to deal with several "critical issues," Desetti said.

Among the most important, he said, is the demand that fourth- through sixth-grade teachers be given time during the school day to grade papers, prepare lessons or perform other professional duties that now must be done on their own time.

Teachers in seventh through 12th grades have working time set aside for such tasks. Teachers of kindergarten through third grade also have some free time because their school day is slightly shorter, Desetti said.

He said the cost of providing preparation time for elementary teachers would be small--about $300,000 a year out of the district's annual $80 million budget--and could be accomplished by hiring professionals to replace the classroom teachers in teaching physical education. Thus relieved, teachers could do paper work during gym classes.

District officials, however, argue that the cost of hiring professional gym teachers will escalate. They have proposed that teachers wait until the 1990-91 school year, when the district expects to receive additional money from the Proposition 98 school-funding initiative approved by the voters in November.

Feasibility Uncertain

Desetti said teachers rejected that offer because there is no guarantee that Proposition 98 funds can be used for salaries or other benefits. He argues that the district, which has a 10% surplus in its budget this year because of increasing enrollment and greater-than-expected returns from the California Lottery, can afford the program now.

"Ideally, we didn't want to go to impasse," Desetti said. But preparation time for elementary teachers "is a critical issue that has to be addressed."

"The likelihood of unrestricted money coming to the school district is slim to none. . . . Why should we have to hope and pray that the money comes when the money is there now?"

But district officials said the most serious disagreement with the union is a demand for a restructuring of salaries that would give significant pay increases to longtime district teachers this year rather than next year, as proposed by the district. The union proposal would cost the district almost $1.6 million, Duncan said.

Under the district's proposal, the top teaching salary would increase from a present maximum of $40,312 to $54,301 by September, 1990, a 34.7% jump. Starting salaries would increase from $22,536 to $27,411. The average salary, which is now $33,117, would climb to $41,000 per year, placing teaching salaries in Glendale in the top one-third of the 43 unified school districts in the county, according to district and county officials.

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