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Yuba City teachers picket in front of schools
Teachers picketed in front of schools in Yuba City for the second time this year on Thursday, drawing attention to a breakdown in negotiations between the Yuba City Teachers Association and Yuba City Unified School District.
Contract negotiations for more than 700 district teachers, counselors, nurses, school psychologists and speech and language pathologists began in spring 2011. On Sept. 26, the union declared impasse in response to the latest district offer. Now, the state will assign a mediator to help the groups reach an agreement.
The most recent offer from the district was a 2 percent one-time increase for salaries last year, an ongoing 5 percent salary increase this year and an additional ongoing 2 percent salary increase beginning next year.
According to Yuba City Teachers Association President Dina Leutgens, that contract offer would not bring the Yuba City staff up to comparable salaries in Marysville or with the state average. She said that is important for the district to do to attract and retain good teachers.
Leutgens said the salary for starting teachers in Yuba City is 12 percent lower than starting teachers' pay in the Marysville district, and the highest paid teacher in Yuba City is 16 percent lower than Marysville.
"I don't understand why other districts can do better for their employees and ours don't seem to be able to," said Steve Jennings, a teacher at Yuba City High School and chairman of the teachers' negotiating team. About two dozen teachers were outside the school carrying signs Thursday morning.
"There was never an intent from the district to underpay our teachers," District Superintendent Nancy Aaberg said. "We want our staff to have the best support we can provide."
She said the board has prioritized program amenities, such as a music specialists, counseling specialists and transportation services.
In addition, Aaberg said, the district has smaller class sizes for advanced classes and classes designed for at-risk learners.
"Their programs are priority, which is fine. But what about us that do the programs?" Shelley Priddy, a Yuba City High English teacher who is also on the negotiating team, said. "When are the teachers going to be treated fairly?"
She also said district administrators are paid above the state average, while teachers are paid below. Aaberg said Yuba City administrators work more days than administrators in other districts and receive less benefits.
"It's not always the case that those factors are taken into consideration," Aaberg said.
In addition to salary, teachers picketing raised issue with contract language.
Mike Lee, a chemistry and physics teacher at River Valley High School, who was among about 30 people on Thursday morning.
"I was actually looking for another position because of salary and the change in the district attitude toward teachers. Teachers (used to be) highly valued here," Lee said.
Aaberg said, "It's important that people recognize how much we depend upon and value our staff. The work of educating 13,000 students absolutely cannot happen without our staff and we want to make their job as quality as we can."
She said the district is anxious to find a resolution. "We look forward to having a third-party mediator to assist us in doing that," Aaberg said.
The district will move forward with a different lead negotiator as of Tuesday when the school board accepted the resignation of Assistant Superintendent of Business Jonathan Barth.
Named as an interim lead negotiator was Doreen Osumi, the assistant superintendent of educational services, who has been on the negotiating team.
CONTACT reporter Monica Vaughan at 749-4783.