Tustin : Teachers' Vote Criticizes District Superintendent

Teachers angered by a lack of progress in Tustin Unified School District salary talks announced Thursday that a wide majority of them have voted "no confidence" in their superintendent, Maurice Ross.

The teachers, who have been trying to negotiate a new contract since last summer, accused Ross of illegally and unilaterally extending their working year without consulting them. Of 336 teachers voting, 317 supported a "no confidence" motion and 19 voted against it, said Sandy Banis, president of the Tustin Educators Assn.

Ross said Thursday that he was not surprised by the move. "This is a standard situation whenever they (teacher unions) are trying to move to confrontation," he said.

He also said the union's charges are false, including the allegation that he acted against state law when he extended the teachers' work year. Ross said the Tustin school board tried for two months last spring to get the union to propose how the teachers should be paid for the extra work.

"After three consecutive board meetings passed and we hadn't heard from them (the union), we had to make out a schedule without them so the parents would know what the school year would be," said Ross. "I don't think I acted illegally at all."

In its no confidence resolution, the Tustin Educators Assn. also said that Ross "has decreased the district's contribution to dependent medical care without first bargaining with the teachers."

That statement, Ross said, "is totally false . . . . The district is still giving the same amount of dollars this year as it did last year for dependent medical care."

Other charges in the resolution included allegations that the superintendent's "lack of leadership has resulted in low teacher morale" and that he had "created an atmosphere that is non-productive to the education of the Tustin students."

"I don't know how to respond to things like that except to say we are still running a good school district and educating children very well," Ross said.

In late November, Ross said that while the school board had offered the teachers no cost-of-living increase for this school year, "that's not to say it's forever ruled out." But on Thursday, Ross said that the school board now sees little possibility of offering a cost-of-living raise "because we haven't been able to contain the increased costs for fringe benefits." Ross said the district's costs for fringe benefits, including medical coverage, has ballooned from $1 million to $2 million a year in the past three years.

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