Oxnard Teachers' Vote Could End Bitter Dispute Over Salary, Benefits

Times Staff Writer

Oxnard School District teachers will begin voting next week on a tentative agreement that could spell the end of an acrimonious contract dispute that was characterized by strike threats and a failed recall drive aimed at a school board member.

The agreement, reached last week, would give teachers a 2% retroactive raise for the 1988-89 school year, followed by a 7% raise during the coming school year and a 6.5% raise the next year. It would also reinstate full health care benefits beginning next year and would include a $300 cash bonus for each teacher.

Without a tentative agreement, the mean salary for district teachers is $29,396 a year.

Officials of the Oxnard Educators Assn., which represents the district's 500 teachers, said the bonus will recoup some of the teachers' expenses for health care benefits, which the district reduced last fall. Since that time, teachers have paid $84 a month toward their health insurance.

Lottery Funds

Teachers would also keep a 3% cash bonus from state lottery funds awarded early this year.

In exchange, the union would drop 11 charges of unfair labor practices filed against the district with the state Public Employee Relations Board.

School district Supt. Norman Brekke said the deal could not have been made without funds obtained under Proposition 98. This year alone, the school funding measure will bring the district an additional $600,000 from the state budget surplus, more than half of which will go to benefits and raises for the teachers, the union calculated.

"We're ecstatic," Brekke said of the possibility of a resolution to negotiations that started in September.

Lukewarm Reception

Mark Prim, teachers' union bargaining chairman, was not so enthusiastic. He predicted that the package will meet with a lukewarm reception from teachers but will ultimately win their support in voting sessions Monday, Tuesday and Aug. 3 and 4.

"It's not as much money as we expected," he said. "If we get the vote, it's because people want this thing over, not so much because of the terms of the agreement."

Acrimony in the contract dispute, which Prim characterized as the most bitter in memory, peaked last month when 89% of the district's teachers voted to go on strike if a settlement had not been reached by this fall.

Antagonism also ran high in November, when teachers launched an unsuccessful recall drive aimed at Jack Fowler, the school board member they said was least sympathetic to their requests.

The district consists of 16 elementary and intermediate schools through the eighth grade in Oxnard. High schools are in a separate district.

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