Teachers make pitch for bigger raise

Saying it was too late in the budget process to open a work session, the School Board refused to reopen compensation negotiations with teachers and moved ahead with approval of contracts and a 2.75 percent raise.

Before the Board approved 2007-2008 contracts at their monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 8, teacher Terry Tobin made a pitch for moving $6,000 earmarked for a capital project to the maintenance and operation budget to fund teacher raises.

"I know where you stand on moving money from capital," she said. "But here is a situation that you guys could maybe move us up on that priority of spending ladder, just a rung or two and show us that maybe we're more important than those propane tanks out there or the electric bill or the playgrounds or the phones or something else that always comes up. Things always come up and then we're always last."

She said that a meeting with School Business Manager Lee Metheny failed to turn up the $5,000 needed for a 3.2 percent raise, but that there was sufficient money attached to a project to recarpet the elementary school. An informal poll of teachers showed "nine out of nine thought the carpet was doable," Tobin said. Two of those, however, warned that the Board would never move money from capital anyway.

In rejecting the request, Board member Chuck Wahler said, "The concern I have is that it's not just $6,000 this year. It's $6,000 this year and forever that we don't have in capital. If we move that money into salaries, we move it for all time. That's the reason why I'm so reluctant to move capital money."

Teacher Dan Lopez asked about the funding sources for a proposed 10-percent increase in the stipend for coaches and to pay for a strength conditioning coach. Superintendent Sheila Breen said that a proposed $25 increase in sports fees would offset the raise for coaches and that the strength coach contract position would be funded, as it was for $10,000 last year, out of the administration budget, not from existing salaries.

Lopez then requested that the Board postpone action on teacher contracts until after votes on the coaching stipends and re-contracting with Tom Bruno as strength conditioning coach.

"Would it be possible to talk about the coaching raises and listen to the (strength coach) proposal before you make any decision, so we can see how much money we're talking about?" he said.

"I think my discomfort is that we're turning a regular board meeting into a work session," Breen said. "We have not noted this for a work session."

In moving the question of approving the contracts as written, Wahler said. "We now have a recommendation and at this late date, I don't want to revisit all of these issues. My belief is that this is a fair raise. I wish we had more money. I don't believe that we do. We can look at doing things differently next year and starting earlier."

Contracts for classified staff went more smoothly, with no one present. Metheny said that raises totaled $833 per year for maintenance, clerical and other non-teaching positions, with an average raise of 40 cents an hour.

"Forty cents doesn't sound like too much but we have a few people, particularly part-timers, in the $8 an hour range right now; 40 cents is 5 percent," Metheny said.

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