Mountain View Voice

News - November 11, 2011

MV Whisman teachers get small raise

'Amicable' contract talks end in 1 percent pay raise, shared medical costs

by Nick Veronin

After two short days of negotiations, teachers and administrators with the Mountain View Whisman School District have reached an agreement on revisions to the current teachers' contract.

The amendments, unanimously approved on Nov. 3 by the school district's board of trustees, provide a 1 percent pay increase for all Mountain View Whisman teachers and ensure that the district will pay for more than half of next year's increases in health insurance costs — with all teachers footing a portion of their premiums for the first time in district history.

Both parties are "pleased" with the new contract, according to a joint statement issued by the district and the Mountain View Educators Association, the union that represents the teachers.

Craig Goldman, superintendent of Mountain View Whisman, said the contract negotiations were "amicable" and wrapped up in record time.

"We were able to complete negotiations over the course of two morning sessions," Goldman said. "To the best of our recollection, it was the fastest negotiations on record."

The superintendent said he felt that everything the teachers requested was reasonable.

"It was a true compromise," Donna Campbell, president of the teachers union, said. "We went back and forth. They gave some. We gave some. It was good."

While the Mountain View Educators Association continually seeks to keep teachers pay in step with the cost of living, Campbell said the upcoming hike in healthcare premiums was the primary driver of this most recent round of negotiations.

Last school year, during the last round of contract negotiations, the teachers secured a 3 percent raise and one-time bonus and the district put a cap on how much it would pay toward healthcare costs for teachers. Teachers were aware that they might have to begin paying toward their premiums as healthcare costs rose, but they had not anticipated by just how much Kaiser and Anthem would increase their rates in just one year.

"The increases were out of this world," Campbell said.

If MVEA did nothing to amend the current contract, teachers would have been facing a 10 percent jump for Kaiser coverage and a 12 percent spike with Anthem.

MVEA and the district were able to work out a deal, however. The district will pay 90 percent of any two-party coverage or family coverage plan and 95 percent of any single-party coverage.

Campbell said that teachers "really wanted single employees to pay nothing." They also wanted a larger raise. But in the end, most of her colleagues felt that it would have been inappropriate to push on the district too hard, especially given the current fiscal outlook.

According to Goldman, while the district is in better financial shape this year than it has been in recent years, it is still possible that the state may end up cutting $1.3 million from his district's budget by the end of the year.

Goldman credited the teachers for putting up with nominal raises and agreeing to shoulder a portion of their healthcare costs. "We've had a longstanding collaborative relationship with our teachers' association," he said.

All told, Goldman said the raise and the rise in healthcare premiums will likely cost the district around $247,000.

"We view it as a necessary cost of doing business," he said, noting that his district's teachers have seen their base salaries increase by 4 percent over the past six years. "We need to ensure that we are providing our employees with a fair and competitive compensation package."

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