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SRVUSD, teachers union announce tentative agreement on contract to avert strike

SRVEA members to vote on ratification next week; school board to decide March 26

The bargaining teams for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District and San Ramon Valley Education Association pose for a photo after finalizing a tentative agreement that will now go to union members and the school board for final ratification to bring closure to months of negotiations that reached impasse and the precipice of a potential strike. (Photo courtesy of SRVUSD)

San Ramon Valley school district officials and teachers union representatives have reached tentative agreement on a new contract that would cap months of contentious negotiations and avert a potential strike.

The deal, finalized on Friday on the heels of a 15-hour productive negotiation session on Wednesday, still needs to be ratified by San Ramon Valley Education Association members and the San Ramon Valley Unified School District Board of Education.

Highlights on the tentative agreement include a 4.18% ongoing compensation increase; lower student-to-staff ratios for counselors, nurses and teacher librarians; and caps on class sizes and case loads, according to both sides.

SRVUSD Superintendent Rick Schmitt and SRVEA president Ann Katzburg reflected on their perspectives on the tentative agreement and lengthy negotiations in a joint statement on Friday afternoon.

"Students are at the forefront of everything we do, and today our community can stand together with pride in the settlement both teams have negotiated," Katzburg said. "I am appreciative of our members for the solidarity they displayed throughout this process. Our trustees are our partners and I value their leadership as well as their commitment to our students."

"We saw how much this community values and supports its educators," she added. "This means the world to us and strengthens our resolve to make San Ramon Valley an even better school district as we move forward."

Schmitt said, "I am grateful to the Board of Education and both bargaining teams for the hours of collaboration that went into developing an agreement that improves the learning environment for our students and the working conditions of our educators. We are all aligned in our priorities to provide world class educational opportunities with an emphasis on each student's personal and academic growth."

"This agreement builds a bridge to the future, allowing both parties opportunities to work collaboratively on a coordinated effort to support local and statewide funding concerns," he added. "We look forward to working in partnership with our entire staff and parent community to ensure there are financial supports that protect the education of the students in the San Ramon Valley both in the near future and beyond."

Final adoption of the tentative agreement would eliminate concerns about a teachers' strike, which became a more realistic potential after SRVEA members voted last week to authorize union leadership to call for a strike if talks with the district broke down.

SRVEA leaders are scheduled to present the tentative agreement to their members during a union-wide meeting on Monday at 3:45 p.m. in the Dougherty Valley High School library in San Ramon.

Union members will then cast their votes on whether to ratify the agreement between Tuesday and Thursday. The largest union in the district, SRVEA represents teachers, district counselors, nurses, psychologists, librarians and speech pathologists.

The school board is scheduled to consider ratification of the contract during its regular meeting on March 26.

One key provision of the tentative agreement include a 4% increase to SRVEA members' base salary and a 0.18% increase in district contributions to their retired employees health benefit plan and trust.

That 4% raise marks a middle ground between the reported offers made by both sides (3% by SRVUSD; 5% by SRVEA) on salary during the rounds of negotiations that ultimately stalled and resulted in the union declaring an impasse.

The salary increase debate had hinged on concerns by the district about being able to sustain the raises going forward with current and projected enrollment decreases, resulting in less revenue from the state, compared to SRVEA's desire for more competitive pay in light of rising costs of living and continued restoration after no raises amid the recession, among other reasons.

Should both sides ratify agree to the 4% ongoing salary increase, then SRVEA members would have received a total of 18% in ongoing salary increases since 2014 -- the 4% raise in the 2013-14 school year was SRVEA members' first pay bump since 2007-08 amid the recession and recovery; their only compensation increase in that time was one bonus in 2012-13, worth 4% of their salary.

Other key elements of the tentative agreement, according to both sides, include:

* Extended work year and revised salary schedule for school nurses.

* Lower student to staff ratios for counselors, nurses and teacher librarians.

* Extended work year and new salary schedule for speech language pathologists.

* Increased stipends for teachers who support new teachers (SRVTIP).

* Extended preparation time for elementary teachers.

* New contract language for reduced fourth- and fifth-grade elementary staffing ratios and secondary daily student contacts.

* Caps on class sizes and caseloads, including special day classes and secondary caseloads.

Once ratified, SRVEA members will receive their retroactive salaries for 2018-19 in an upcoming payroll, according to SRVUSD officials, who said the timeline for that distribution will be determined and announced in the coming days.

With the tentative deal in place with the teachers union, SRVUSD officials have now reached agreement or tentative agreements with all of its employee groups for 2018-19. "These agreements maintain SRVUSD as one of the most competitive school employers in the Bay Area with some of the best salary and benefit opportunities for all staff," district officials said.

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