Saugus Teachers, District Reach Tentative Accord : Education: The preliminary contract agreement ends six weeks of strained talks and teacher protests.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Teachers and administrators in the Saugus Union Elementary School District, after six weeks of strained contract talks punctuated by teacher protests, said Friday that they had drafted a tentative contract to end the dispute.

The agreement, hammered out late Thursday with the aid of a state mediator, apparently ends a tense period in the fast-growing Santa Clarita Valley school district.

Teachers staged several protests during the talks. They held a candlelight vigil one night and once attended a trustee meeting dressed all in black with dollar bills pinned to their clothing.

Although the present contract was not scheduled to expire for two years, passage of a statewide school funding initiative last fall prompted the teachers to return to the bargaining table in hopes of getting higher pay. Jo Ann Pryor, president of the Saugus Teachers Assn., said the contract allows the group to reopen negotiations when new state funds become available.

The agreement would give the teachers a 4% raise this year and a 1% raise for the 1990-91 school year, Pryor said. The increases will be in addition to a 6% raise that the teachers were to receive this year and a 6% raise set for next year.

The two 6% raises were guaranteed teachers in a contract that will expire July 1, 1991. The tentative accord reached this week will augment that contract.

Under the new contract, the district would pay all teacher fringe benefits. The agreement would clarify district policies on transferring teachers from school to school, Pryor said. Teachers will no longer have to perform yard duty under the contract.

The 214-member union is scheduled to vote on the agreement Wednesday.

The teachers had originally requested a 12% raise this year and another 12% raise next year. The teachers maintained that Proposition 98, a statewide school funding initiative, would provide enough money over this year and next year to pay for the increases.

Proposition 98, passed in November, 1988, earmarks 39% of the state budget for education. Education officials have estimated that it will funnel an extra $450 million into school districts each year.

But district negotiators said they could only approve pay raises that would be covered by Proposition 98 funds already available. The district could not use estimates of future Proposition 98 funds to guarantee more pay increases, they said.

Pryor said she was pleased that the contract dispute was nearly over but said district trustees and administrators must still prove that they are committed to improving teachers' working conditions. She said the union's negotiators approved the pact reluctantly because they doubted that the district would improve its most recent contract offer. "This was a strained agreement," Pryor said.

Teachers and administrators pledged to develop a better and less confrontational bargaining process. "People are hurt on all sides, and now is the time to begin the healing process," said Nadine Elswick, district administrator for personnel.

The Saugus district, with 5,500 students, is one of the fastest growing districts in the Santa Clarita Valley. It has 11 schools, three of which opened in the last two years. Another school is under construction.

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