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Board Hears Salary Plea

Newhall Teachers Association asks district board for fair raise

The Newhall Teachers Association took its plea for higher salaries out of the negotiating room and into the district board of directors meeting Tuesday, asking for fair compensation and to be put in line with other local school districts. Association President Nancy Butler said the union took the unusual step of going to the school board because it is taking too long to move negotiations forward on teachers’ one-year opener. The Newhall School District “has a difficult time just coming to the bottom line,” Butler said. “They take it in steps, which takes too much time. It’s the end of May and we don’t have a settlement for the 2005-06.”  However, all but one of the other local school districts are in the same position in their contract talks as Newhall. Castaic and Saugus union school districts and the William S. Hart Union High School District are still negotiating contract openers for the 2005-06 year. Only Sulphur Springs Union School District completed negotiations months ago and granted teachers a 3 percent raise, said Tom Garvey, director of personnel. Newhall district teachers also are asking for a 3 percent increase and “compaction,” taking four years off the 20 years it now takes for a teacher to reach his or her highest pay. Teachers want their top pay by their 16th year, Butler said. She maintains that Newhall teachers’ salaries are not competitive with those of other local districts. Newhall district President Michael Shapiro disagrees. “We have looked at the total picture: salaries, stipends and benefits,” Shapiro said. “Yes, Saugus makes a little more. They are a bigger district, but it’s pretty close. There’s a lot to look at.”
He said he is concerned about “wrong information” being disseminated by the union. A teacher sent an e-mail to union members stating the administration hired four new administrators. Butler later corrected that to say the district had hired only two new administrators. The administration said neither is correct. There has been a “zero net” hiring of administrators. Four, who had left were replaced by four others, Shapiro said. Butler characterized the two new administrator positions as: a half-time counselor, a half-time business office worker and a full-time maintenance man. Superintendent Marc Winger said those are teaching and classified positions; none are administrators. Butler said the administration has enough money in reserves to grant 3 percent raises to teachers and still keep its state-mandated 3 percent reserve fund. Again Shapiro disagreed, saying by the third year, reserves would be 3.11 percent, “just slightly over the limit. That doesn’t account for declining enrollment or other big things that might occur. That (3 percent raise) pushes us to a deficit, under the legal reserve.” However, Butler said enrollment is not declining. Although the district said enrollment was static this year, she said it increased by 80 children. “To us, it’s growing,” Butler said. If enrollment doesn’t grow next year, four teachers are retiring and they likely will be replaced by new teachers who will earn much less, Butler said. Shapiro, a deputy sheriff, is a union member himself and said he understands negotiating for every half-percent. “I’m proud to be in this district,” Shapiro said. “I put myself in their position. I support them and I want to give them everything I can. The raises are extremely important to us, too, as a board. We are not going to shortchange them.” There are 350 teachers in the 10 schools that constitute the district. Five were named California Distinguished Schools this year. “That is phenomenal,” Butler said. “Three of the five have been distinguished schools before.”
 
This story can be found in Saturday’s Signal newspaper.

Board Hears Salary Plea

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