Wednesday, April 23, 2014

No layoffs at Rescue; teachers seek first raise in seven years

Fourteen Rescue Union School District teachers will not lose their jobs and every teacher in the district will receive a cash bonus.

Superintendent David Swart released a statement stating: “On Tuesday, April 23, the Board of Trustees of the Rescue Union School District held a special meeting to consider approval of a Tentative Agreement with the Rescue Federation of Teachers.

“This agreement consisted of two articles. The first article was an Early Retirement Incentive that was contingent upon receiving seven retirements in order for the district to demonstrate cost savings, as required by the State Teachers Retirement System. Since less than seven retirements were submitted, this portion of the agreement was automatically nullified. In the second article of the agreement, I am pleased to report that the board approved a 3 percent one-time salary bonus for teachers. I believe that this action by the board demonstrates their recognition of the hard work and dedication of our teaching staff.

“I am also extremely pleased to announce that we have been able to rescind all of the 14 preliminary teacher lay-off notices that were issued in March. This means that these highly valued employees will be returning to our classrooms in the fall to continue to serve our students.”

Despite these apparent concessions — at last month’s school board meeting parents and teachers implored board members to save jobs and give overdue raises — some call the new agreement between the district and the Rescue Union Federation of Teachers far from ideal.

Third-grade teacher and RUFT President Donna DeLaurentis is one who isn’t pleased.

“Although it appears from Mr. Swart’s recent letters to parents that the district has done everything in their power to reward teachers for their hard work, we have been upset by several of the things they have done this year during our negotiations process,” she said.

“Although we are happy that all of the layoff notices were rescinded, we question whether they were ever necessary in the first place.”

And as for the teachers who offered their early retirement under the plan, which has since been nullified, DeLaurentis said, “We have encouraged those teachers to withdraw their retirement unless the board decides to offer a package commensurate with the original offer.”

Swart called the layoff notices and eventual rescinding of those notices an administrative process that the board doesn’t control. He also said registration for the 2013-14 school year is up from what was expected, allowing the district to keep more teachers.

The 3 percent cash bonus is also a point of contention. Teachers want ongoing pay raises, arguing that the salary schedule hasn’t changed in seven years yet class sizes have risen along with insurance premiums.

“Most people I talk to assume that all teachers have great benefit packages, but are shocked when they hear the insurance premiums we pay,” said DeLaurentis. “And the district has such a large reserve, in part, because of the fact that teachers and other staff have made salary concessions for the past five years in addition to increased class sizes and workloads.”

Another teacher, who wanted to speak anonymously, said, “I never scoff at money, but a 3 percent bonus after taxes works out to be $25 a month … and that’s only for the past few years out of the seven we haven’t had a raise.”

Both the district and the union will be submitting their sunshine items (things that each side wants to bring to the negotiating table next year) at the June board meeting.

“The most important item for RUFT will be salary and benefits,” said DeLaurentis. “And then in August we will return to the negotiating table and see what the district is willing to do. At this point we are hearing that the state budget will be coming in higher than originally thought back in January and that education will be getting 40 percent of that. With that news we are hopeful that the district will see fit to give us a raise and possibly reduce class sizes if the state provides funding for that.”


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