Teachers, District Reach Accord on Salary Levels

After more than 90 hours at the negotiating table, representatives from the La Cañada Unified School District and the La Cañada Teachers Association reached an agreement last week that will boost the pay of the district’s teachers.
Consensus came Wednesday, May 25, just a couple of days before the start of summer vacation. LCTA President Mandy Redfern said the union’s membership overwhelmingly voted to approve the contract this week, with 96% of members casting a secret ballot in favor of the deal.
The long-term salary restructuring, which will take effect July 1, represents an approximate 5.28% increase in the district’s budget. It is expected to be ratified by the LCUSD Governing Board at its next meeting, on June 14.
The agreement improves the district’s teacher salaries up to third place in lifetime earnings among the five districts to which it was compared during negotiations, the type of increase that both sides said they sought throughout the process.
According to the LCUSD, if the deal is approved, its teachers can collect lifetime earnings of $4,176,476 — with those in their 24th year or more earning a maximum of $98,725 annually.
That’s more than the previous maximum salary of $90,720 at 25 years, and more than the $97,851 at 25 years that the district proposed early in May. In 2012-13, the top earners in the district earned $82,231.
Of those five “comparable” districts, LCUSD teachers will now trail Manhattan Beach’s teachers (who earn $100,572 per year at 30 years) and San Marino’s (who earn $100,423 at 20 years). Teacher earnings will rank ahead of South Pasadena ($99,949 at 42 years) and Palos Verdes ($98,471 at 30 years).
For the past three months, teachers drew attention to their demands by regularly wearing matching LCTA T-shirts to school, and on other occasions wielded picket signs along Foothill Boulevard and at Governing Board meetings.
“We are very proud of the hard work of everyone who played a role in this process and are thankful we found a solution that is fair and honors the hard work of La Cañada’s educators,” Redfern wrote in an email.
Meanwhile, district officials repeatedly identified closing the competitive pay gap in order to recruit and retain top teachers as their top Local Control Accountability Plan goal. The question, they said, was how to do it responsibly. Last week, after 14 bargaining sessions, Superintendent Wendy Sinnette said they’d figured it out.
“While this offer adds more than $1 million in ongoing salary costs, we have surgically readdressed our budget assumptions and future expenditures to fund this increase while still maintaining funding for our seven other LCAP priorities and ensuring the district’s solvency,” Sinnette said in a statement.
In order to find more money for its teaching staff, the district suspended the practice of automatically moving funds into a deferred maintenance account, drew down the number of assigned teachers on special assignment and opted to incorporate a flat enrollment assumption into next year’s budget.
The district also limited its relationship with an outside professional development consultant that’s been unpopular with the district’s teachers.
For the just-completed 2015-16 school year, teachers are to receive a 4.25% increase in salary, retroactive to the beginning of the school year. That’s also more than the 4.1% increase proposed earlier in May.
The salary increase “will achieve the common interest of increasing lifetime earnings for employees, positioning our teachers competitively with their counterparts in the agreed-upon group of high-performing school district comparables,” Sinnette said in the release, pointing out that the updated structure is designed to provide teachers with regular salary increases through their 24th year.
The salary increases come after salary increases of a combined 10% over the past three years. Redfern recently pointed out that those increases came after teachers accepted no increases for the prior seven years while the district was weathering the recession.

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