A possible teachers strike in Dos Palos has been avoided after the school district and teachers union reached a tentative agreement through contract mediation.
The agreement reached by the Dos Palos-Oro Loma School District and Dos Palos-Oro Loma Teachers Association, or DPOLTA, would give teachers the equivalent of about a 9 percent increase over two years, according to a school district news release.
“We reach this agreement with our teachers with a sense of relief and high hopes for our future together,” Superintendent William Spalding said. “We have challenges ahead, and this agreement allows all of us to focus on our kids and improved student achievement without distraction.”
The school board is expected to vote on the contract Thursday.
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DPOLTA President Marty Thompson said 93 percent of the union on Friday voted in favor of the tentative contract.
“Hopefully, it’s done Thursday,” Thompson said. “Now we’re putting our effort into (campaigning) for board members to be elected so this doesn’t happen again.”
According to the release, teachers will receive a 3 percent increase for the 2015-16 school year, retroactive to July 1, 2015. They also will receive a 4 percent increase for the 2016-17 school year, retroactive to July 1, 2016.
In addition to the increases, $3,000 per year will be added to teacher salaries after the 28th year of service, and an additional $3,000 per year after the 30th year.
All teachers will receive an extra $1,000 to their annual benefit cap, bringing total district benefits contributions to $12,000 per employee, according to the release. The yearly raises in addition to the benefit cap increase makes the total increase a little more than 9 percent, Spalding confirmed Monday.
Spalding said the contract helps improve the district’s ability to compete for and retain teachers. He acknowledged that a long impasse between the school district and teachers union became a significant topic in the community.
“We appreciate the patience and support from our community as we worked through this,” Spalding said in the release. “Obviously, this is not the ideal situation to encounter when first coming to the district as superintendent.”
On Spalding’s first day, April 11, teachers picketed the school district office in protest of the district’s handling of contract negotiations. DPOLTA declared an impasse in negotiations April 6.
Teachers were seeking a 6 percent increase for the 2015-16 school year, but were offered a 1 percent salary increase by the school district, according to DPOLTA.
In addition to picketing the school district office, teachers showed up to picket a school board meeting April 21.
Rhetoric was testy between DPOLTA and the school district over the summer.
DPOLTA accused the school district of “hoarding” money in the form of fund reserves the district claimed were for necessary infrastructure improvements and good financial health.
After failed mediation sessions, the two sides turned to a neutral fact-finding session which was held Oct. 11, leading to the proposed deal. Thompson said teachers may still strike if the school board rejects the contract.
The teachers contract also helps the classified staffers in the district. The school district approved a contract with classified staff members Sept. 15 that gave them 2 percent increases, retroactive to July 1, 2015, a 3 percent increase effective Jan. 1, 2017, and another 2 percent increase July 1, 2017.
But the classified staffers’ contract had a “me too” clause granting them the same increases teachers received, if the teachers’ contract resulted in better terms.
Vikaas Shanker: 209-826-3831, ext. 6562