With the help of a state mediator, negotiators for the Petaluma City Schools district and Petaluma Federation of Teachers have reached an agreement that will maintain the district's 180-day school year.
In July, district and union officials declared an impasse as they negotiated changes to the PFT's current three-year contract with the district. Both sides asked for a state mediator. With that person's help, a tentative agreement was reached in two bargaining sessions.
The agreement is still subject to ratification by the PFT's rank and file and approval by the Petaluma City Schools District Board. An earlier agreement agreed to by negotiators from both sides was rejected by the teachers, leading to continued negotiations and eventually the impasse.
According to Petaluma City schools Superintendent Steve Bolman, the agreement reached last week gives teachers eight more working days, bringing them up to their pre-recession salary level, but does not include the cost-of-living increase they sought. Counting staff-development days, teachers will be paid for 185 days per year, while students will be in school 180 days.
When the teachers rejected the district's original proposal, the school board moved forward on its own and approved a school calendar for the 2013-2014 school year that called for 180 school days.
"We had a contingency plan to go back to the 177 work days that was agreed to in the original contract, but that was not desired by either party," Bolman said.
The district also agreed to pay for a health insurance increase, and will refund increased payments already made by teachers.
Bolman said that the district is hopeful it will be able provide more benefits to the teachers in the future. "If the state lives up to its promises to increase school funding, we hope to be able to address issues like cost of living allowance, class-size reduction and health-care contributions," he said.
Teachers are expected to vote on the agreement this week and it will be taken to the school board for approval at the Nov. 12 meeting.
The district and PFT are in the second year of a three-year contract that allows for negotiations on certain items, most notably salaries and benefits, each year.
Bolman pointed out that negotiations are almost continuous from year to year.
"We start negotiations for next year right after the first of the year," he said.
(Contact John Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org.)