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[whitespace] District and teachers reach a solution in contract talks

Teachers walk away with 11 percent raise

Campbell--A school board meeting last week marked the end of one of many contract negotiations between the Campbell Union School District and an employees' union.

The district met on Jan. 25, to ratify an agreement with the California School Employees Association (CSEA) for the 2001-02 school year.

Several changes were made in the agreement, most notably a salary increase.

CSEA, a statewide organization, consists of approximately 180,000 members.

According to representative Joyce Scilingo, the organization is for "anyone who is not credentialed in the school system," such as secretaries and accountants.

Discussion between the two groups started last September, when contracts for Campbell CSEA members expired. Negotiation meetings were held four times in the following months, with a compromise reached on Jan. 10.

"This was a very amiable settlement," district negotiator Jane Petty says. "We have a very good relationship with [the CSEA]."

CSEA Labor Relations Representative Leonard Bonilla uses the same phrase to describe interaction between the two parties.

"We've never had an impasse or needed a mediator in the nine years that I've been here," Bonilla says.

At the Jan. 25 meeting, the district took a number of different actions after distributing the projected salary schedule.

According to Petty, one of the actions was to verify that the new agreement was financially plausible.

"We have to prove we can pay for it," Petty says.

Other steps taken at the meeting include modifying the existing agreement and authorizing district Superintendent Johanna VanderMolen to approve the new agreement.

Unlike the ongoing dispute between the Campbell Union High School District and teachers, health benefits was not a major issue in these negotiations.

However, Bonilla says that raising the cap on district contributions to its employees' health benefit premiums is an ongoing concern.

"We always try to raise it every year," says Bonilla, "but it didn't change this year."

Instead, the CSEA made proposals in the areas of salary changes, early retirement and sick leave accrual.

The major compromise reached concerned a retroactive salary increase. The district agreed to raise CSEA's members' salaries by almost 11 percent, starting this past November.

According to Scilingo, salary increases are necessary in Campbell school districts because the employees are not being paid a competitive rate. Employees are not staying in the area, being paid for their overtime work, and deserve more compensation.

"The students' needs and the teachers' needs were not being met with the schools so short-staffed," Scilingo says.

CSEA had pushed for the increase to extend as far back as last summer to benefit those employees contracted for a 12-month period, but no agreement was reached.

Another important aspect of the agreement involved raises for certain CSEA members.

According to Bonilla, employees who participate in the "professional growth program" by receiving formal instruction relevant to their jobs qualify for salary increases.

The credits needed for a raise depend on the employee's position, as well as course credits earned.

Some examples include a secretary taking a software class and an instructional aide attending a child abuse seminar, Bonilla says.

Other changes being made involved internal affairs, according to Bonilla.

One of the changes concerned sick leave policy. Instead of sick days being deducted on a half-day basis, it will now be deducted hourly.

"It seems silly," Bonilla says, "when you get half a day taken off for leaving for a one-hour doctor's appointment."
Gloria I. Wang

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