Teachers in the Mountain View Whisman School District scored a hefty salary increase for the fourth year in a row Thursday night, after school board members approved raises geared toward helping newer teachers who are on the lower end of the pay scale.
The new salary schedule, which trustees approved unanimously at the Sept. 7 meeting with no discussion, gives a 7 percent raise to teachers who have worked in the district for nine years or less in the district, and a 5 percent raise for teachers with a longer tenure in the district. The lopsided raises in favor of newer staff means that teachers on the lower end of the pay scale can better keep up with the high cost of living in the area -- a concern that has been central to union negotiations for years.
Superintendent Ayinde Rudolph told the Voice that he commends the board and the teachers union -- the Mountain View Educators Association -- for acknowledging that starting teachers need to be able to afford housing in the Bay Area, and that the school district will be much more attractive for younger teachers when the bottom of the salary range is brought closer in line with the cost of living.
The salaries, which are effective for the 2017-18 school year, now range from $60,933 to $109,243, based on number of years served in the district and level of college education. The estimated cost of this year's raises totals a little over $1.6 million annually.
Though other neighboring school districts have offered annual raises closer to 3 percent in recent years, Mountain View Whisman has dolled out big increases in teacher salaries for multiple years. During the 2014-15 school year, the school board approved a 5 percent salary increase and a one-time bonus, followed by a 4 percent increase in 2015-16 and an 8 percent salary increase for the 2016-17 school year.
In past years, those pay raises were hard fought: teachers union representatives frequently butted heads with district administrators over salary negotiations, turning out in force at school board meetings and firing off emails and messages expressing frustration with the negotiation process. In 2014, a fiery debate over salaries left the union and the district at an impasse, leading the union members to reduce their work hours to only those contractually required, as a protest.
Since then, the lowest salary paid by the district has gone up from $47,000 to $60,900, while the ceiling for top salaries has increased from $88,218 to $109,200.
"We're pleased with the progress we've made to compensate our staff," Rudolph said.
Despite a budget forecast showing deficit spending in the coming years, the district's finances can bear the brunt of the salary increases this year, Rudolph said. Although the district has a stated goal of having a balanced budget by 2021, he said there's a competing goal to attract and retain teachers by staying competitive with other school districts.
Mountain View Whisman has been struggling with retention for years, losing about 20 percent of its teachers every year for the past four years.
"I don't think we're worried about (the budget), but we recognize, and the unions recognize, that we need to be fiscally sound and on track to have a balanced budget by 2021," he said.
Representatives from the Mountain View Educators Association could not be immediately reached for comment.
Unlike the more contentious negotiations of years past, the terms of this year's contract were negotiated, ratified by the union and approved by the board quietly without any show of public opposition from the district's teachers. Rudolph said that's a good sign that the district's administration and its bargaining tactics are open and transparent.
"The silence is a reflection of the trust we've built over the last couple years," he said.