Denair Unified at a pivot point

naustin@modbee.comJanuary 12, 2014 

— Denair Unified has called a special meeting of its board for Wednesday to consider a next step with its teachers. A formal bargaining session is slated for Thursday.

Trustees will meet for closed-door discussions on negotiations at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the superintendent’s conference room. The agenda says no action will be taken in closed session.

The next day, the Denair Unified Teachers Association and district negotiators will meet at 8:30 a.m. to formally go over the fact-finding report and its recommendations for the teachers’ 2013-14 contract. Both the board and DUTA have in public meetings committed to follow the report’s proposal, expected to include salary cuts to keep the district out of state receivership.

At the last board meeting, both sides expressed optimism that a deal can be struck after nearly a year of negotiations. If no agreement is reached, the board could impose salary cuts and teachers then could vote to strike. The district has a pool of substitute teachers to draw from should that happen.

After Thursday’s session, the report’s recommendations will be made public. The district’s last, best offer was an 11 percent cut, which at this point, halfway through the school year, would take 22 percent from paychecks. Signs in car windows at Denair schools this week said “4 percent x 3,” suggesting a multiyear solution.

Without a current contract, teachers’ salaries this year reverted to 2007-08 levels plus automatic seniority and education raises accrued since. The district’s support staff accepted a 7.75 percent cut over the summer. Administrators took an 11 percent cut.

Even with contract concessions, the district needs to lay off eight teachers in February for 2014-15, its fiscal adviser warned trustees. Also unknown are potentially large reinstatement costs if the district loses court actions disputing layoffs for this school year.

Through the recession, Denair lost funding and students but failed to cut staff to match. It burned through reserves while classes shrank, borrowing from the Stanislaus County Office of Education to finish the year. Its budget predicts it will run out of money before year’s end for a second year, which would trigger a state takeover of the district.

Bee education reporter Nan Austin can be reached at naustin@modbee.com or (209) 578-2339. Follow her on Twitter @NanAustin.

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