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Alpine Teachers Back To Class After Union, District Reach Deal

Teachers from the Alpine Union School District on strike after failed contract negotiations, Feb. 20, 2014.

Aired 2/26/14 on KPBS News.

Alpine teachers are back in class this morning after the union reached a deal with the school district Tuesday.

ALPINE - Alpine teachers are back in class after reaching a deal with the school district Tuesday.

Ninety-six percent of teachers voted to approve the deal at an early morning ratification meeting.

Alpine Union School District Superintendent Tweets About Tentative Deal

Above: Early Tuesday morning, Alpine Union School District Superintendent Tom Pellegrino tweets about a tentative deal reached between the district and teachers union early Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014.

According to the Alpine Teachers Association website, the new contract leaves teachers' salaries cut buy 5.58 percent. That's a 2 percent restoration from the 7.58 percent pay cut they took when a contract was imposed by the district after teachers voted down an agreement reached Jan. 31 this year.

It also increases the school district's contribution to employee health benefits to $9,500 annually from $8,000. Before the imposed contract, the district covered all health costs for employees and their families. The average contribution was $13,500 per employee, but some employees' plans cost the district as much as $19,000 a year, Alpine Union Superintendent Tom Pellegrino said last week.

This is the district’s first benefits spending cap and, Pellegrino said Tuesday, it makes all the difference in closing the school district’s more than $1 million deficit.

“To bring that into a reasonable expense in line with other school districts is a fundamental change that needed to happen and that we truly appreciate the Alpine Teachers Association coming to terms with that,” he said/

The teachers could get another 2 percent of their salaries back if the Legislature approves the state budget plan Gov. Jerry Brown presented last month under the deal. Teachers will also get a stipend for two professional development days, but will take six furlough days next school year and seven the year after that. The district is also offering a retirement incentive of $8,000 for teachers who give their retirement notice by March 5. Pellegrino said the incentive would pay off for the district if at least three teachers decide to retire earlier than they otherwise would have.

The teachers hit the picket lines last Thursday after months of negotiations failed.

Reaching this deal could start the work of mending strained relationships in the district, said Alpine Teachers Association President Gayle Malone.

“I think it’s a beginning I think we’re at a starting point and I think we’re going to build on it. I think things will come back together, but they’ll come back together differently and I think that will be a good thing,” she said.

10News contributed to this reporting.

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