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Port Hueneme Contract Talks Stalled : Teachers Say High-Tech Means Low Pay

June 08, 1989

Teachers frustrated by a year of fruitless contract negotiations in Port Hueneme took the offensive this week, complaining that their district's famed high-tech classrooms reflect the administration's skewed spending priorities.

Teachers at a packed meeting of the Hueneme school board also criticized the district's salaries and large class sizes.

Representatives of the district's 300 teachers claim that money for higher salaries is available but that some of it is being used to pay for the district's so-called "SmartClassrooms"--two classrooms and two high-tech vocational labs that use a sophisticated assemblage of computers, satellite technology, lasers and television to teach subjects ranging from science to industrial arts. Initiated in September, 1987, the program has generated interest worldwide. But some teachers claim that it is hurting the cause that it was formed to promote.

"Basically, the money has been coming out of the classroom and going to the district's priority, and we don't even know if computers work," said Rick Uelmen, a fifth-grade teacher at the district's Hollywood Beach Elementary School and president of the Hueneme Education Assn. "We're just going pell-mell into it, and that bothers us."

Special Allotments

Administrators contend that the money being used to fund SmartClassrooms has come from special allotments such as school improvement funds, federal grants and lottery revenues.

"We feel very strongly that we're not ignoring their concerns," Supt. Ronald Rescigno said. "We've not used general funds for the technology at all."

The administration is offering teachers a 2.1% salary increase for the first year of the three-year contract, plus a 2.5% one-time bonus. Salary increases and potential bonuses for the next two years will be based on cost-of-living allowances and health benefit costs. Teachers, who are asking for a 5% annual salary increase over three years, say the administration's offer is too low.

District negotiators and teacher representatives are scheduled to meet Tuesday in a final effort to reach an agreement before the school year ends. However, neither side harbors much hope of an agreement, which means that teachers could be without a contract when they return to work in the fall.

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