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Teachers, Petaluma Schools District reach impasse

The Petaluma City schools District and Petaluma Federation of Teachers are asking the assistance of a state mediator to help reach an agreement on a contract for the 2013-2014 school year. Representatives of the union and school district met Friday, but were unable to reach a mutual agreement.

The district and PFT reached a tentative agreement in May, but the agreement, while approved by the school board, was rejected by the PFT membership.

Major areas of disagreement are the district plans for an extended kindergarten day, the implementation of a new grading and "parent portal" software program and salary increases.

The district plans to extend the kindergarten day by 88 minutes four days each week beginning with the upcoming school year.

"Teachers have not rejected the concept of all-day kindergarten, but rather, we have rejected the lack of structure, budget, curriculum, open discussion and actual research in implementing this decision," said Jon Harford, chief negotiator for the PFT.

Petaluma City Schools Superintendent Steve Bolman said the extended kindergarten day is becoming the norm throughout the state and that the proposal had been discussed at a meeting of the Employee-Employer Committee in December.

The new "parent portal" software program, part of the district's overall technology plan, would require teachers to post grades and other student information online where it could be shared with parents. Teachers are concerned about lack of training and testing of the new program.

Bolman said the district is planning to have representatives of the new software program, called Aeries, in the district in August to provide training to district teachers and that staff members, trained in the use of the programs, will available to assist teachers.

Teachers are also requesting what they call "a modest' salary increase, maintaining they have been subjected to furloughs and four years of no salary increases during California's prolonged recession.

"After a long history of successfully working together to weather the financial storm brought on by the recession, our teachers continue to provide and improve the strongest programs possible for our students, families and the education community of Petaluma," said PFF President Coleen Maloney.


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