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San Dieguito Accord Near After Sickout : Teachers, District Tentatively Agree on New Contract

Times Staff Writer

Union leaders tentatively approved a contract hastily proposed by San Dieguito High School District Officials Thursday--following disruption of classes Wednesday when about 170 teachers failed to report for work.

A series of informal talks between the San Dieguito Faculty Assn. and administrators immediately followed the Wednesday action, which left many of the district’s 6,500 students sitting in classrooms without teachers. Nearly 170 teachers--about half the district’s teaching staff--failed to report to work.

The discussions led to a new administration offer, which was reviewed and accepted Thursday evening by the San Dieguito Faculty Assn.'s board of directors.

“The board of directors have tentatively approved the offer in concept,” said Bob Croft, who headed the faculty association’s negotiating team. “We believe this a reasonable compromise effort. It certainly will not please everybody, but it’s great progress from where we started.”

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Croft said attorneys for both parties will review the contract language next week, and he expects the offer to be presented for approval to the association membership in about two weeks.

The tentative approval was a dramatic turnaround of events and may lead to the end of a bitter nine-month labor dispute that began last June when the teachers’ contract expired.

On Wednesday, teaching efforts were derailed at the district’s two high schools, Torrey Pines in Del Mar and San Dieguito in Encinitas.

The action marked the nadir of negotiations that began June 30, when the teachers’ contract expired. Faculty leaders and administration officials declared an impasse in December and have been proceeding with the help of a mediator.

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Only a few teachers were absent Thursday, allowing the district’s six schools to return to a regular routine. And negotiators went back to the table.

“Just about every teacher is back today,” said Assistant Supt. Don Kemp. “Only a very small number is out, maybe 15. That’s below our average absentee rate, which runs between 20-25.”

“Things are looking better now,” Kemp said. “We have given everything we have to give. The next move has to come from the union. Hopefully, they can say something to the troops.”

According to faculty association leaders, the district offered an appealing compromise to the teachers Wednesday night.

Although faculty leaders declined to discuss the contents of the offer, they said they will receive a pay raise, a comprehensive health coverage plan for their families, a right to binding arbitration and a no-reprisal clause.

The clause could be used to protect teachers who were absent Wednesday from possible punitive action from the administration, Croft said.

No such action was planned by the administration, but the district does have authority to take punitive action--including docking of pay and dismissal --against unwarranted absences, Kemp said. Absent teachers who said they were ill were asked to return to work with a note from a doctor.

The absences proved costly to the district, which spent $20,000 to hire 100 substitute teachers for two days, said Kemp. On an average day, the district spends about $2,500 on replacements, he said.

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Although the absences lasted only one day, district officials were forced to retain the substitutes for a second day because it was unknown whether the labor action would continue, Kemp said.

Many members of the community have become involved in the prolonged dispute.

Residents and students have held a candlelight vigil and sponsored a rally on March 2, which they say drew a crowd of 200, in a show of support for the faculty.


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