LANCASTER – Attempting to persuade district officials toward a fair settlement in contract negotiations, members of the Eastside Teachers Association held a spirited rally Monday evening outside the Eastside Union School District headquarters in Lancaster.
Teachers hoped their message would reach board members for the following day’s negotiations, but no settlement was reached at the mediated session on Tuesday.
Stephanie Price, president of the teachers association, said that negotiations with the district had reached an impasse over a demand that teachers add three days to their work year without receiving adequate compensation for the additional time.
“The district was looking for more work days, but what equates to our members as a pay cut,” Price said. “Most people when they are asked to work more hours are paid more for additional time, and the district does that for everyone else; but they don’t want to do it with us.”
The teachers association stated in a news release that the district’s final offer before Tuesday’s mediation session was barely competitive to neighboring districts without the additional proposed days.
“That the district’s priorities are wrong is exemplified by the fact that among comparable High Desert districts, Eastside ranks almost dead last in the budget percentage spent on teacher salaries, while they are in the top third of money spent on administrators,” the organization stated.
Mark E. Marshall, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools for the Eastside Union School District, told The AV Times in an email on Wednesday that the district is offering teachers a 5 percent salary increase plus an additional 0.8 percent toward enhanced experience credit (up to 10 years of eligible experience).
“To address the issue of improving student achievement, the district is proposing three additional workdays, two for instruction and one for professional development,” Dr. Marshall said. “It should be noted that even with the exclusion of the proposed 0.8 percent boost for additional years of service, the proposed raise for ETA constitutes a 9.5 percent cumulative increase since Jan. 1, 2014.”
Price put the proposed pay increase offer into further perspective, saying that ETA teachers have had pay increases of about 9.22 percent over the past 10 years, while the cost of living has risen to about 23 percent.
“The district and administrators… they’ve gained about 33 percent (pay increase), and so they’ve not only kept up with the cost of living, but they’re ahead by almost 10 percent,” she said. “So there’s a little inequality there, and the taxpayers voted to raise their taxes so that it would come to teachers and students. And where is it? It’s in the administrator’s pockets.”
Among other issues being negotiated, Price said the teachers association is also seeking to reduce class size for the upper grades and middle school. “We think that’s an issue that parents, students and teachers all believe is important to everybody,” she said.
The district and the Eastside Teachers Association held its first mediated session on Tuesday with Gerald Adams, a labor dispute mediator for the State Mediation and Conciliation Service, which is a division of California’s Public Employment Relations Board. A second mediation session is slated for Nov. 30 at the district office.
“The district hopes to reach resolution on Nov. 30,” Dr. Marshall told The AV Times. “We are hopeful of resolving the impasse and reaching an agreement as soon as possible.”
According to its website, the Eastside Union School District is comprised of more than 300 employees and teaches nearly 3,450 students each day.