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Teachers spokesman pessimistic about contract ratification

by Jill Darby, Record-Courier News Service

Douglas County School District teachers will consider Thursday whether to ratify a contract reached by district and association negotiators, but the agreement could be in trouble.

A ratification convention is scheduled for Thursday, at which time teachers could choose to accept the agreement. If they do, the school board will make its decision Sept. 12 at the Board of Trustees meeting.

Marty Cronin, association president, said he is not sure if the members will ratify the agreement.

“Ratification of the agreement is in doubt,” Cronin said. “The association has spent a good deal of time and energy raising the consciousness of the public regarding teachers’ concerns. Many teachers feel the agreement is inadequate. There are certain elements of the agreement in which not all teachers can abide.”

Teachers are currently working under the same terms of their 1998-99 contract, which expired June 30, 1999.

Their request for a 4.7 percent salary adjustment was rejected, but the tentative contract includes a slight pay increase.

According to district spokeswoman Maggie Allen, the district agreed to a 1 percent salary increase on the 1998-99 salary schedule by October and a 1 percent bonus on the 2000-2001 schedule for all contracted, certificated teachers employed as of Sept. 1. A 1 percent increase will apply to all stipend salaries as well.

Cronin said he is encouraging association members to accept the tentative contract, but many teachers strongly object to some of its terms.

“When you combine the antipathy toward the district with the unacceptability of some provisions in the mind of some teachers it adds up to a doubtful outcome for ratification,” he said. “In good faith, I believe the agreement is acceptable and we’re doing what we can to answer teachers’ concerns and are encouraging them to vote for ratification.”

Cronin also commented on the association’s desire for a new school board.

“The teachers’ perception is that we need to recompose the school board to effectively address teacher concerns,” he said. “What we’re concerned about now is getting the best deal we can on the contract and then moving on to shape public opinion in the school board elections.”

John Soderman, assistant superintendent of personnel services, said the contract represents a compromise.

“A tentative agreement is representative of both sides,” he said. “It means we both think this is a good solution or we wouldn’t be signing it. Negotiation is about trade off and when you tentatively agree, you’re saying you think this is a good deal.”

Soderman did not make any predictions as to whether the agreement would be ratified.

“The end product is going to stand or not,” he said. “I’m only answering processing questions. We’ve done what we can in the best interest of our constituents.”

District Superintendent Pendery Clark declined to comment.