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Westmorland teachers' union declares impasse


June 06, 2001|By LAURA MACKENZIE, Staff Writer

WESTMORLAND — Impasse was declared by the Westmorland Teachers' Association on May 10 after contract negotiations reached a stalemate.

Glenice Waters, local California Teachers Association Uniserv director, said although impasse was declared, the paperwork to be sent to the state has not been completed by the teachers' group.

Teachers have been picketing in protest of the 2 percent salary increase offered by the district.

Jay Young, president of the Westmorland Teachers' Association, said teachers also are parking off-campus, wearing black on Fridays and black ribbons during the week and putting signs in their car windows which state, "Are your children worth more than 2 percent?"

Linda Morse, the district's principal and acting superintendent, said she thinks the main issue is the salary increase.

However, Young mentioned other issues, such as one minimum day per week, the life of the current contract and funding allocations for the teachers related to state Academic Performance Index scores.


Morse said the district's concern with offering more than a 2 percent increase is declining enrollment.

"We have had a declining enrollment for the last 10 years and that has had a tremendous impact on a district our size," said Morse.

She added, "We do not see any growth in Westmorland, so we don't expect that to change."

Morse said another issue reflecting the district's offer is Anne Mallory's resignation as superintendent.

"It was definitely owed to her, but when Anne left, the district had to pay her vacation time and the balance of her contract for the school year," said Morse.

While refusing to point to one person, Morse said the district is having to make up for funds not allocated to pay for a speech therapist because, "$43,000 was not accrued last year and not budgeted for this year for a speech therapist. … That's a big chunk of money."

Waters said the teachers' association's negotiators have been told "last year's budget impacted this year's budget."

"We're trying to get a budget analysis done by the CTA," she said, adding, "The problem is just money."

Young said the teachers are asking for "10.95 percent salary increase, with one minimum day per week and an extension of the current contract to the year 2003, if the district agrees to the salary and benefits offer, with four reopeners allowed each year."

Morse said the district "definitely sees benefits" to a minimum day for teacher preparation.

However, she said the board "felt it was too late in the year to implement that for next year, without getting any kind of feedback from the community."

She added, "They suggested one day per month to kind of ease into it."

Trustee Elizabeth Moreno said the board is "very concerned" about the negotiations.

One concern district officials have is Gov. Gray Davis' promised education funds will be taken away because of the energy crisis.

"We are trying to get out to the teachers whatever we can," said Moreno.

She added, "They deserve more than we can offer, I'm sure. But it's just a matter of budget."

Waters said the district has already received installments of Davis' promised 10.98 budget increase for this year.

"They'll get that money for this year. It won't be taken away for this year," said Waters, adding the May revision of the governor's budget included a cost-of-living increase of 3.89 percent for next year.

Young described the teachers' mood as disappointment.

"They are disappointed at just being offered 2 percent, especially when they see other districts settling for 10 percent," said Young.

Young said teachers deserve a 10-percent raise because they "are dedicated to the job they are doing."

Waters said the teachers are "tired of letting things drag out and are tired of being, if not the lowest-paid district, then the second-lowest in the Valley."

She said a larger salary increase would retain teachers in the Westmorland district.

"They lose teachers over the years because the younger teachers can't afford to teach here and so they move on," said Waters.

She said many teachers have expressed a desire to stay in the district because they like the students, the community and the relationship they have with parents.

"They can't financially afford to keep working here," she said.

Morse said, "Despite the fact that we're at impasse, the WTA has asked to meet with negotiators again to try to settle."

Moreno said, "We really stand behind them. I hope its settled soon."

Added Moreno: "We wish it would have been taken care of before it went to impasse."

Morse said while originally the district had hoped to settle before the school year ended, she doesn't think it is possible now.

"You can't give what you don't have," said Morse, adding the school year ends June 13.

Waters said negotiators have a meeting scheduled for June 15 to try to "work the situation out."

She said the teachers' association's negotiators have asked that two board members be at that meeting to "review the budget part of it."

Morse said, "Despite what (teachers) are doing, wearing black and picketing … they're definitely continuing to be very professional on site. Negotiations are not being personalized at all. … I want to commend them for that."

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

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