Teachers, District Continue to Talk About Pay

Talks between district officials and union representatives about additional teacher compensation continued in earnest this week.
A joint communique posted on the La Cañada Teachers Association website indicates the group’s bargaining team met with La Cañada Unified School District officials from 9:30 a.m. until 5:50 p.m. Monday, April 25. The statement indicated that the teams were to continue working through the night before meeting again Tuesday from noon to 5 p.m.
Messages left with representatives involved with the negotiations were not immediately returned.
The district is seeking to meet what’s been identified as its top Local Control Accountability Plan goal: to make teacher salary competitive and improve lifetime earnings as compared with similar districts. In San Marino Unified, for example, the top-earning teachers earn $100,423 annually as compared with the maximum $90,720 a year offered in LCUSD.
In a special board meeting earlier this month, the district’s Chief Business and Operations Officer Mark Evans explained that while LCUSD does “very well” in comparison with most other districts in Los Angeles County, typically ranking in the top quartile, there’s motivation to close the gap with other “elite comparable districts.”
“On that front,” he said, “we are behind and that’s where the retention problem comes into play.”
The teachers — who received a total pay increase of 10% over the previous three years but were set to receive no raise this school year — have been outspoken in their desire to see the gap closed, suggesting that the district consider making cuts to do it.
They’ve also sought to bolster attention for their cause by attending school board meetings en masse and marching along Foothill Boulevard with signs.
At last week’s board meeting, parents and students joined teachers in addressing board members during public comment.
Those speakers included Merissa Sadler, a fifth-year French teacher who recently was honored with the PTA’s Founders Day Award as someone who’s proved herself a “true advocate” for the district’s children. She also works as a curriculum writer for the state and has been invited, she said, to present at this summer’s prestigious American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages conference in Boston.
“I should feel like I’m on a roll, like I’m on my way,” said Sadler, who said she instead is feeling “burnt out,” is “broke,” and has, for the first time, started to consider working for other districts, some of which are seeking to entice teachers with hiring bonuses of as much as $10,000.
“My heart wants to stay in La Cañada and with the phenomenal staff, students and teachers here,” she said. “But my head is saying get out soon before you’re stuck.”
At the same meeting, LCTA bargaining team member Tracey Calhoun said she was optimistic an acceptable deal could be reached. “We’ve made some great strides and we believe we are close to identifying a mutually agreeable option,” she said.

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