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Ramona School Board Approves 2-Year Labor Deal With Teachers

Ending more than 18 months of labor strife, the Ramona school board Thursday night ratified a two-year contract with teachers that still calls for pay cuts, furloughs and other sacrifice.

Ramona school board.

Grant McNiff, a negotiator with the Ramona Teachers Association, which “overwhelmingly” endorsed the deal, called the board’s vote a “somber moment.”

“The tentative agreement is by no means a cause of celebration,” McNiff said. "All of you are the decision makers… From now on, all of us will be watching constantly, questioning every decision and every expense that is made.”

Board member Rodger Dohm moved to to approve the agreement, with Kim Lasley seconding. The board agreed to ratify the agreement unanimously.

Dohm expressed thanks to the Ramona Parents Coalition, who worked to inform the public about issues and encouraged both the district and the teachers union to reach a fair agreement and avert a threatened strike.

“I believe that it’s so important for community members to be a part of this process,” Dohm told the group. “I think that your involvement and your presence here is important. I appreciate the teachers that really took the time to figure out what was going on.”

He said he appreciated the RTA, “and that we were able to work together and find an agreement.”

McNiff concluded remarks to the board noting it will take years to heal from recent board actions, such as imposition of a 7.82 percent salary cut for 2012-13 and a 9.4 percent cut for each 2013-14 and 2014-15.

In the approved deal, the teachers union will take a 4.6 percent pay cut for the past 2012-13 year and a 8.92 percent cut the 2013-14 school year.

Teachers have also agreed to 5 1/2 furlough days. They will pay 15 percent of their health benefits next school year, and 10 percent ongoing after July 2014.

Denise Croom, a co-founder of the parents coalition, hailed the RTA and district for listening to the “voices of our community.”

“Thank you for setting aside your differences and putting our children first,” she said. “We want to stay involved because we feel as if we, the parents, have been absent. That is changing.”

She said her group would remain diligent and dedicated to supporting its three main goals: protect education quality, maintain competitive compensation for all staff and help the Ramona Unified School District maintain fiscal stability.

Ramona’s Don Gruniesen, a district parent, noted that while he appreciates the agreement, he hopes it’s something that can continue between the teachers and district well into the future.

“Do your best, all of you, to compromise,” Gruneisen said. “That is the goal: reaching an agreement.”

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