Modesto teachers vote today on contract with raises, collaboration time

naustin@modbee.comMay 22, 2014 

Modesto City Schools teachers will vote on a tentative contract this afternoon at Downey High. The proposal would raise pay for 2014-15 to about 3 percent higher than what they made at the height of the pre-recession boom, as well as increase health benefits costs.

The contract would run through June 2017. Only a 1.5 percent hike would be a permanent addition to salary, which is up for renegotiation each year. A 1 percent one-time payment and an extra training day would boost 2014-15 paychecks. Health benefits would rise from $150 a month to $400 a month.

Salaries are rising once again at many districts in the region, thanks to budgets bolstered by higher education funding and a new state formula that puts a premium on poor kids and English learners. Community input for spending priorities was required for spending plans under the new formula as well.

Modesto City Schools will have a full, 180-day year going forward. But to allow for meetings and teacher collaboration days, the contract puts in 33 minimum days for elementary kids – nearly one a week – and 27 minimum days for junior high and high school.

New language for teacher evaluations would not include scores from standardized state tests, which are not available this year in any case, but would include “evidence of pupil progress” based on local testing.

New teachers and those who fail to get satisfactory ratings would be checked each year. The rest would be evaluated every other year until they have a decade or more of teaching under the belt, when job reviews would stretch to every three years.

Other items in the proposed contract:

• Class sizes would be about 25 for primary grades, 34 for fourth through sixth grades and 37 for junior highs. High schools would aim for an average of 39 in core classes and foreign languages.

• High school counselor loads would drop slightly, from 750 teens to 700 per counselor.

• Sick leave would tighten a bit, requiring that a form be filled out after two consecutive weeks out of class, with a doctor’s note asked after 20 days. The numbers of days, 10 per year, would be the same, but teachers can bank sick days indefinitely.

• Teachers would attend up to two campus meetings a month and four district meetings a year, but it spells out, “Staff meetings should not be called unless they are needed.”

• Department heads would return for subject areas in junior high and high schools.

If teachers ratify the contract, it still will need a thumbs-up vote by the Modesto City Schools board to be final.

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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