BREAKING: School district, teachers reach tentative contract accord

BREAKING: School district, teachers reach tentative contract accord

Michele Ellson

The Alameda Unified School District and its teachers have reached a tentative, one-year contract accord, the first time in a decade they have done so prior to the expiration of their existing contract.

The new contract, which must still be approved by teachers and the Board of Education, gives teachers a 4 percent pay raise next year and allots money to boost teachers' hourly rate, increase stipends for speech and language pathologists and help pay teachers' dental insurance costs. The district also agreed to cover teachers' expected pension cost hikes this year, a press release issued by the district on Tuesday afternoon says.

Teachers and district officials also agreed to work together to establish school calendars and to review the process for teacher evaluations, two hot-button issues discussed before and during the district's last round of contract negotiations.

Members of the Alameda Education Association, the union that represents Alameda's 560 teachers, will vote between Monday and June 11 on the tentative agreement, which will go to the school board for its consideration on June 23.

"I am grateful we were able to come to this agreement with our teachers, not only because our teachers and other employees deserve to be honored with a raise but also because it is a clear sign to me that the district's relationship with (its teachers) is now more peaceful and more collaborative than it has been in all the years I have worked in (the district)," Superintendent Sean McPhetridge was quoted as saying in the press release. "I am also extremely grateful to all of the people who came to the bargaining table ready and able to work together and negotiate a fair deal to support our teachers and, by extension, our students."

Alameda Education Association President Audrey Hyman thanked the union's negotiators for their work and called the early timing of the agreement a "banner moment."

"I believe these negotiations mark a turning point for the union’s relationship with the district and I look forward to continuing the spirit of collaboration that has begun between both parties this year,” Hyman said.

Negotiations over the union's prior contract with the district, approved in 2013, saw district leaders locked in an ugly public feud with teachers over staffing ratios, pay and other issues, one that spilled out publicly in several school board meetings and was pushed into a state fact-finding process before being resolved with the aid of a state legislator.

Contract deals are typically for three years, but the pending expiration of the Measure A parcel tax, in 2017, is casting some uncertainty over the district's finances; the tax generates about $12 million a year for the Island's schools. The uncertainty was one of the factors prompting the district and its teachers to ink a one-year deal.

"We felt it was in our members' best interest to get them a salary increase in hand," Hyman said.

Alameda's teachers have long lagged behind their East Bay counterparts in terms of pay, and union officials have said in the past that pay increases granted for years of service with the school district were more than consumed by teachers' rising health care costs. Sharp increases in pension payments were also expected to be an issue this and future years.

District officials and teachers began meeting to negotiate this contract in January after trading proposals and arrived at a tentative deal Monday, after 14 bargaining sessions.

Negotiations on a new contract deal are to begin in January 2016.