Tustin : Negotiators to Lose Pay for Missing Day of School

Continuing discord between the school district and the teachers' union has resulted in five Tustin Educators Assn. negotiators being docked a day's pay for missing school one day last week.

The five teacher-negotiators will lose about $190 each in salary and benefits, a loss the teachers say is unfair.

However, Supt. Maurice Ross of the Tustin Unified School District said the teachers knew that a negotiating session had been canceled the day they missed school and therefore knew they were required to be in class.

"There was absolutely no doubt that we were not negotiating," Ross said Friday. "The board was adamant (in deciding that) they needed to have their pay deducted."

The five teachers are association president Sandra Banis, Lindlee Sims, George Horner, Shirley Pecarro and Jeanie Duckette.

Banis, in a letter to the superintendent, argued that the cancellation of negotiations had not been announced in writing and therefore was not valid as far as pay is concerned. She pointed out that Sims had been told of the cancellation twice, including once by Barbara Wilson, the district's chief negotiator, but said Wilson refused to put the cancellation in writing.

Ross said the district never schedules or cancels negotiating sessions in writing. "They took it on themselves to absent themselves from the classroom," he said.

Last week, 125 union members staged a black-balloon demonstration in the Tustin High School parking lot to protest the district's claim of an impasse in contract negotiations on at least three key issues:

The teachers' demand for a 9% cost-of-living pay raise. Ross has said repeatedly that the district cannot afford a cost-of-living raise this year.

The district's demand for longer school days and school years, for which $620,000 has been set aside. The teachers contend the extra hours and days will impose an unfair burden.

Settlement of the mentor teacher issue. Ross noted that the program is in its second year statewide and the district has $60,000 for merit pay for mentor teachers, but no teachers have been chosen. If an agreement is not reached soon, the state will take back the $60,000, he said.

The district and teachers have not come to an accord in 23 negotiating sessions, and the district recently declared the talks at an impasse. An independent mediator--acceptable to both sides--has been chosen and is expected to schedule a negotiating session soon, Ross said.

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