BREAKING: Teachers approve contract deal

BREAKING: Teachers approve contract deal

Michele Ellson

Alameda’s teachers have approved a new contract deal, capping two years of contentious negotiations that played out in public through dueling press releases, heated school board meetings and two trips to state mediators for help.

If the deal is okayed by the Board of Education, teachers could see their pay rise as much as 5 percent over three years, class sizes in kindergarten through third grade would remain at 25 students per teacher for the next five years and calendars for the next two school years could be available for families before the final bell rings on this one.

The board is slated to ratify the contract at its meeting Tuesday, according to a district press release issued Thursday evening.

“I am so happy to report that our long negotiations process has ended and that our teachers can now return their full focus on providing the best educational program for our students,” Alameda Education Association president Gray Harris was quoted as saying in a statement released Thursday evening in which she called the deal “a fair agreement with the district.”

Superintendent Kirsten Vital said she’s optimistic about the future in light of what she said were the compromises reached under the agreement.

“We are hopeful that this new contract will help us repair relationships and support our ongoing efforts to have all of us united and working together every day to provide the very best education we can for every student in every classroom in the District,” Vital was quoted as saying in the district’s release.

The deal gives teachers a 2.5 percent retroactive raise for the current school year and a 0.75 percent raise for 2013-2014, plus a one-time pay bump of 1.25 percent. Teachers would get an additional 1.75 percent raise in 2014-2015 unless district leaders determine they can’t afford it; a public hearing would be held before January 31, 2014 to discuss that year’s raise.

The K-3 class sizes of 25 students per teacher would remain in effect until 2017-2018, when the Measure A parcel tax expires. The deal also calls for a joint district-teacher group to study and recommend an implementation plan for teacher collaboration.

The tentative deal is to be posted on the district’s website but was not yet live Thursday evening.

The tentative accord was reached on February 28, after a week of settlement talks mediated by state Assemblyman Rob Bonta. The talks were held after the state Public Employment Relations Board agreed to declare an impasse over pay negotiations at the request of the teachers union.

In 2012 the teachers rejected a contract proposal that would have given them a one-time, 1 percent pay bump and a shot at a 1.5 percent permanent raise depending on the district’s finances. They later approved a short-term class size and calendar deal, after a factfinding panel determined the school district couldn’t afford to reduce K-3 class sizes to their prior level of 20 students per classroom. A fresh round of negotiations kicked off last May.

The raises will cost the district about $800,000 per percentage point, according to information released by the district earlier in the negotiating process; the full cost of the proposal is pending. Teachers will see a pay bump of between $399 and $798 a year for each percentage point of increase.

The deal points and a copy of the agreement have been posted here.