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Contract negotiations continue with Brawley teachers

no impasse expected

April 10, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

BRAWLEY — Contract negotiations with the Brawley Elementary School District teachers continued Friday with no resolution.

Accusing the district of using "delaying tactics," Paul Steimel, chief negotiator for the Brawley Elementary Teachers' Association, said he thinks the district is "holding off to the end."

However, the district's negotiator, Superintendent Howard Sullivan, said "it takes two to delay things."

Steimel said teachers have been wearing black and have been staging unified "walk-ons" and "walk-offs," where they arrive on the school sites together and leave together.

Steimel said in the four years he's been on the teachers' negotiating team, "We've never got to this point where we're taking action."

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The dispute stems from salary, state lottery and work schedule differences.

"We're still at the table," said Sullivan.

Sullivan said the district's last offer was a 9.5 percent increase in salary schedule.

"Over 90 percent of increase money from the state under the proposals we've made has been pledged to the teachers," Sullivan said, adding, "they say it's not enough."

Steimel said the teachers' association is asking for an 11 percent raise.

"To attract credentialed teachers, we need a larger salary schedule," Steimel said, adding many teachers in the district are working with "emergency" credentials from the state.

"It is a fair amount," Steimel said of what the teachers want. "The district is in a very good financial position."

He pointed out that districts are required to have a 3 percent reserve and Brawley Elementary has an 8 to 9 percent reserve.

"The money's there. It hasn't been spent in the past," Steimel said.

Teachers argue that the governor intended to make up for the lack of cost-of-living increases over the last eight years with an increase in teachers' salaries, while the district officials insist the governor did not intend for the increased money to go solely to the teachers.

The governor's education budget states, "This increase … will allow schools to raise teacher salaries, fund transportation, purchase needed instructional technology and materials, or utilize the dollars in other ways that will lead to greater student achievement."

Sullivan said, "It's a state-wide issue."

He said as a result of former Gov. Wilson's school reforms, teachers are feeling the "crunch."

Steimel agreed, "Teachers feel their workloads have increased and the test scores are up. We feel it's fair."

Other issues being debated are the amount of state lottery money teachers receive to use for classroom supplies and an extended day schedule for under-performing schools.

Negotiators also are debating issues including added monthly meetings for teachers, an extended contract day, a proposed "dress code" for teachers and standards for teacher evaluations.

Neither side is anticipating an impasse.

"At least we're making progress," said Steimel.

"We always work through this. There is no animosity," said Sullivan. "It comes down to the fact that there is always a differing opinion."

Staff Writer Laura MacKenzie can be reached at 337-3442.

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