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Simi Teachers Approve New 3-Year Contract

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Nearly 400 teachers voted Wednesday night to accept a new three-year contract, ending months of stalled negotiations and threats of a teachers strike.

Union leaders also said they will drop unfair-labor charges against the Simi Valley Unified School District. Many teachers are now expected to resume volunteer activities at their schools.

By a 394-110 vote, union members approved a contract that reaches a compromise between the district, which offered a 2% pay raise, and teachers, who sought a 2.77% increase.

The contract provides a 2% raise in the 1995-96 school year, a 2% raise in 1996-97 and additional salary increases in both years based on available state funding.

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Union leaders approved the contract on Nov. 7, clearing the way for a ratification vote this week.

“We told them, ‘We bring this to you reluctantly,’ ” said Bill Davenport, a Valley View teacher who is chairman of the bargaining team. “This is the best we’re going to get without taking some serious job action.”

The district employs about 750 teachers, 610 of whom are in the union. The average teacher in the district makes $42,000.

In addition to the automatic 2% raises, the contract also provides a 0.77% increase in the current school year if the district continues to receive state funding from a settlement over Proposition 98 funds, which provided a minimum funding base for schools.

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Teachers could receive a raise greater than 2% in the 1996-97 school year if the district receives a greater-than-anticipated cost-of-living increase from the state, but the availability of those funds depends on next year’s state budget.

The contract, which still must be approved by the school board and the county superintendent’s office, will cost the district at least $2.7 million over the first two years, plus there will be additional costs to pay for voluntary early retirements.

Simi Valley Supt. Mary Beth Wolford said the district could live up to the terms of the contract, as long as state money keeps flowing.

“If we plan carefully, we can provide this,” she said. “Of course there’s always some risk in making agreements for the future.”

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Teachers also had sought what is called a “fair share agreement,” where union members would vote whether to charge fees for union representation to all teachers, not just those who joined the union. That clause is not included in the final contract.

In recent weeks, many teachers have said they were willing to walk off the job to reach a contract settlement. Some had stopped volunteering for after-school activities, which disrupted some choirs, independent study programs and parent-teacher conferences.

The pact will go before the school board for approval at a public hearing on Dec. 5. The county Superintendent of Schools office also must study the plan and determine whether the district can afford it.

Wolford said she thought the agreement was a fair compromise between both sides.

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“We worked very hard to provide something that would be possible for us to support and would be good for teachers,” Wolford said.


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