School board to vote on contract

A potential strike was averted when teachers approved a contract agreement with the Jefferson School District.

The school board will vote tonight on the agreement, which was overwhelmingly approved by the teachers union last week.

The main sticking point has long been health benefits and a cap on monthly expenses the district would pay for employees. In April, negotiations between the Jefferson Elementary Federation of Teachers and the district went to impasse after the union wanted the district to pay $700 a month for health care benefits per teacher, a $50 increase.

The tentative agreement has the district paying the extra $50 per month as well as teachers receiving a 3 percent raise going back to the 2006-07 school year. Teachers would also be able to take up to five “personal use” days, and use sick days for adoption leave, officials said.

“We feel we’re in a much better position to go into the next year,” said Melinda Dart, co-president of the Jefferson Elementary Federation.

The union approved the agreement with a 197-17 vote June 5, Dart said.

The financially strapped district has had rough relations with its teachers, with a drop in student population contributing heavily to its fiscal troubles. Teachers have accused the district of balancing the budget on their backs.

The district was able to increase its monthly contribution to the medical benefits because Kaiser Permanente changed its health plan to a two-tiered system that still has families pay roughly $200 every month for benefits, Dart said.

The addition of an undisclosed health care provider will help the district afford the benefits, said outgoing superintendent Barbara Wilson. “That made a big difference for the district,” she said.

If the agreement is approved, the district expects to spend $89,000 more on health care, said Matteo Rizzo, assistant superintendent of Personnel Services. The 3 percent raise would cost the district $552,000 for last year and $561,000 for the upcoming school year, Rizzo said.

The district’s large reserve of $1.5 million will help pay for cost increases, and the leasing of newly declared surplus properties will also help generate additional revenue for the district, Rizzo said.

Board President Anthony Dennis said negotiations were “never us versus them” but it was about “keeping the district fiscally solvent.”

“It’s always been about what’s affordable and what we can do,” Dennis said.

The board meets tonight at 7:30 p.m. in the boardroom at 101 Lincoln Ave. in Daly City.

Highlights of tentative deal

» The ability of teachers to use sick days as adoption leave

» A $50 increase per month per employee medical contribution

» Up to five “personal use” days

» Salary increases of 3 percent for 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years

– Source: Jefferson Elementary Federation of Teachers and Jefferson Elementary School District

dsmith@examiner.com

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