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Orange District OKs Teachers’ Contract at Packed Meeting

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Times Staff Writer

The Orange Unified School District Board of Education on Thursday voted to approve a new contract for district teachers, ending months of dispute that led to a seven-day strike.

But experts agreed that the effects of the strike probably will be felt for months and maybe years.

About 250 people jammed the board meeting, many spilling out into hallways, where they listened to the proceedings over loudspeakers.

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The crowd included teachers, who voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve terms of the contract and were on hand Thursday to urge its approval.

In attendance, too, were parents who expressed anger at the school board and its handling of the dispute. There also were several other parents who were equally outraged with teachers who participated in the strike, and they called for the board to reject contract wording that says striking teachers will not be punished by the district.

“By making certain that the board included the no-reprisals clause in the contract, they are admitting that they broke the law in urging kids to be truant,” said Adele Graves, a parent who has filed complaints with the district about teacher conduct during the strike.

But Eleanor Stafford, a kindergarten teacher at Lampson Elementary School in Orange, disputed Graves. “Everyone in this room tonight is accountable for the future of our children’s lives, and I see nothing illegal about a strike taken not only for ourselves but to ensure the future of our children.”

The school board unanimously accepted the contract without discussion, ending 15 months of negotiations that culminated in a strike that ended early Monday.

The 24,500-student district, which includes the cities of Orange, Villa Park and parts of Santa Ana, Garden Grove and Anaheim, is the third largest in the county.

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Terms of the contract for the district’s 1,100 teachers include:

- A one-time payment of 3% of their current salary for this school year and a 6.3% pay increase for the 1988-1989 school year.

- Health and welfare benefits paid by the district for this year, and an agreement by the district to pay as much as an 8.5% increase in health and welfare benefits next year.

- A 3% increase in the amount of stipends paid to teachers who provide services beyond the school day.

- An agreement that if state legislation results in new funding, the two sides will begin new negotiations to determine if the money should be awarded to teachers.

- Creation of a joint committee of teachers and administrators to study changes in junior high school programs and to determine if the sixth grade should be included with junior high.

- Agreement that neither side will seek reprisals over the strike. The settlement provides for complaints about teacher conduct to be heard by a state mediator, whose decision will be binding.

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Overall salaries for beginning teachers will increase to $22,300, a 1% increase over the previous contract. While the most experienced teachers--those with 20 years of experience and a master’s degree--now will make more than $44,000, nearly a 10% increase.

The total settlement will cost the district slightly more than $5 million over its two-year life. The contract expires in June, 1989.

Effects Will Linger

While most students, teachers and administrators have begun preparing for end-of-school-year activities, for some students the effects of the strike will linger. District officials said Thursday that students who were away from classes without the knowledge of parents or their schools will be marked as truant.

The normal penalty for truancy is a Saturday study session to make up work that was missed in class. But because of the numbers of students who were absent--roughly 40% of high school students during the strike--the only action that will be taken is recording the truancy in students’ records, Duthoy said.

“The strike is an unusual situation, but students still belong in school,” Duthoy said. “While they (were) affected, it was not an issue between them and the district but between the district and the teachers. We are handling the situation no differently than we would any other situation that involved truancy or an unexcused absence.”

But even in the district as a whole, the effects of the strike probably will linger, experts said.

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“Reports done on strike situations indicate that it takes a district sometimes up to five years to get back to normal,” board president Russell Barrios said.

And nobody wins, said Fred Leonard, director of field services for the Assn. of California School Administrators:

“The wounds can run very deep when something like this happens. People lose friendships, and there is an adversary relationship between those teachers who went out and those who stayed. There is also a widening of the gap between administrators who have to work to keep the schools going and their staffs. I’ve heard of after effects having been felt 10 years later in teacher lounges.”

However, Bill Hayward, assistant manager for communications for the California Teachers Assn., said strikes of short duration, like that in Orange Unified, in the end may have a beneficial effect on teachers and students.

“There is a much greater unity, they feel a part of something important,” Hayward said. “Most times, students and parents are very supportive and understand that they will have to work a little harder to catch up.”

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