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Teachers in Magnolia District to Vote on a Tentative Accord

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Times Staff Writer

As teachers in an Anaheim school district reached a tentative contract settlement, teachers in Orange were no closer to a labor agreement Friday.

In the Orange Unified School District, a report issued Friday by a fact-finding panel said that the Board of Trustees cannot afford to give teachers more than a 2.5% pay raise this year. In fact, the three-member panel recommended that trustees offer the union slightly less than it originally proposed. Orange Unified teachers are seeking a 3.5% increase this year.

Meanwhile, teachers in the Anaheim-based Magnolia School District reached a tentative contract settlement late Thursday, Judy Thomas, director of the Magnolia Educators Assn., said Friday.

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Thomas said the district’s 211 teachers will vote Thursday on whether to accept the district’s offer of a two-year contract calling for a 4.5% raise, retroactive to Sept. 1.

In Orange on Friday, more than 100 parents crowded into the Orange school board meeting room to hear trustees discuss the recommendations of the panel.

Completion of the impartial, non-binding report is the last formal step in negotiations before teachers can legally strike.

“We’ve reached the 11th hour in our negotiations,” said Russell Barrios, president of the Orange School Board. “Now that the facts are in, we truly believe that a settlement is very close and possible.”

Barrios noted that the panel not only found in favor of the district but recommended in their report that trustees offer the union slightly less than it has proposed. However, he would not say whether the district would change its offer of a 2.5% raise for the current year, and a 3.76% raise for next year.

Orange Unified teachers have sought a 3.5% pay increase this year and a 6.3% raise for next year. Teachers also want a guarantee that the district will continue to pay all costs of health-and-welfare benefits.

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The district has agreed to pay the costs of such benefits for the current year, but only a maximum of $3,622 per teacher next year.

The panel recommended that the district pay up to $2,414 in benefits per teacher this year and did not address next year.

The current average teacher pay in Orange Unified is $33,307 a year. Salaries range from $21,686 for a beginning teacher to $40,128 for senior instructors. The district, which has 37 schools, has about 1,100 teachers and 17,000 students.

Mark Rona, president of the Orange Unified Educators Assn., said he had serious concerns about the fact-finding report but added that union officials intended to continue talks. A meeting between union and district officials has been scheduled Monday.

District ‘Is Close to the Wall’

“There’s no question in my mind that the district is close to the wall with regard to their budget,” Rona said. “We are just going to try and work with them. It’s our intention to stay at the bargaining table as long as it takes to get this thing resolved.”

But Rona stopped short of ruling out a strike.

He said Orange Unified teachers will decide after Monday’s meeting whether they will participate in a joint strike with teachers’ unions in Huntington Beach and Westminster, which announced this week that they will hold a one-day walkout Wednesday, the state’s official Day of the Teacher.

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One parent at Friday’s meeting said her daughter, an 18-year-old senior at El Modena High School, was concerned about whether she will graduate.

“She’s really worried,” Nancy Clark said of her daughter, Kim. “She’s stressed to the point where it’s a big concern for her on a daily basis.

“I do support the teachers, but I’m caught in the middle,” Clark said. “I’d like to see (the teachers) make more money. But if it’s not there, it’s not there.”

Magnolia Reaches Compromise

Meanwhile, in Magnolia Unified, teachers association spokeswoman Thomas said the 4.5% tentative wage increase is a compromise between the district’s original offer of 2.5% and the teachers’ bargaining position for an 8% raise.

“No one is overjoyed, but no one ever is,” Thomas said of the tentative settlement.

The teachers are “not happy, but they’re satisfied. We have received as much as we can get under the circumstances,” she said.

In addition to the 4.5% pay increase this year, the tentative Magnolia contract also guarantees teachers a pay increase equaling the state’s cost-of-living adjustment next year, district spokeswoman Jeri Fisher said.

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Pay talks will be reopened next year, she said, if voters approve a proposed November ballot initiative limiting class sizes.

“Everybody is satisfied,” Fisher said of the agreement.

Thomas said the union will not participate in a planned strike with other teacher unions next week. “We had scheduled a strike meeting (Friday), and we called that off,” Thomas said.

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