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Community Colleges’ Long Battle With Teachers Ends

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Capping a 17-month battle that included the threat of a teachers’ strike, trustees of the county’s community college district conceptually approved a long-awaited labor contract Tuesday night.

The contract will not be officially ratified until the teachers’ chief negotiator, Elton Hall, returns from vacation Saturday.

District officials decided to delay formal ratification until Hall reads the final language. Union officials Tuesday said they expected Hall to approve the final draft.

“We’ve been through a lot of turmoil, a lot of hurt and a lot of tears shed,” said Carmen Guerrero-Calderon, who teaches management and marketing at Oxnard College. “I would ask that when we get ready to negotiate our contract again that you stick with people who know us best.

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“What has happened in the last week shows that we can sit down and come to an agreement without outside consultants,” she said.

“I will take it to heart what you said, Carmen,” said board President Normal Nagel. “To sit down as a family and settle our differences--we should do that in the future.”

Earlier this month, the Ventura Community College District and union representatives reached an agreement that includes major salary concessions by teachers.

Still, union members voted overwhelmingly in favor of the settlement agreement. About 95% of the nearly 500 faculty members who voted agreed to accept the terms of the contract.

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“Teachers don’t want their students to suffer any longer,” said Larry Miller, a Moorpark College biology teacher and president of the Ventura County chapter of the California Federation of Teachers. “They want to get back to teaching. It’s also quite clear they are ready to start working to get new trustees on the board.”

In the new three-year labor contract, which would end June 30, 2001, teachers conceded on several major sticking points.

* They agreed to a 2.9% pay raise, retroactive to Jan. 1--about half of the 5.7% an independent fact-finder had recommended they receive in May. Raises during the remainder of the contract will be based on the status of district revenues.

* They relinquished lifetime medical benefits for faculty members who are hired on or after June 30, 2001.

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* They gave up a long-standing rule that faculty members would be evaluated only by their peers. Administrators now will contribute to those performance evaluations.

But the new contract also calls for some added job security for part-time faculty members. Those who receive a “superior” rating during evaluations would be placed on a preference list to teach extra classes.

On Monday afternoon, Miller remained unflappable about the vote’s outcome as he counted the ballots with three other district teachers.

“Oh, no I’m not nervous,” Miller said. “The day I’ll be nervous is on [election day] Nov. 3. That will be the capper.”

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Miller and other union representatives have vowed to unseat Nagel, the board president, and trustee Pete Tafoya, who are up for reelection in November. Union members believe the pair are clearly anti-union.

Some of the teachers who cast mail-in ballots included with their vote checks for the campaign to oust Nagel and Tafoya, Miller said. He said the union had collected $400 toward that campaign, which involves interviewing candidates who would replace Nagel, who represents the Conejo Valley, and Tafoya, who represents the Oxnard-Port Hueneme area.

Tafoya and Nagel, for their part, deny having any anti-union feelings.


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