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CUSD, CUTA OK contract to end labor dispute
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Ceres Unified School District and its teachers union reached agreement on a three-year employment contract last Wednesday, ending a protracted contract negotiations dispute.

The settlement, which serves the interests of students and staff by preserving jobs and protecting educational programs, was ratified by the district's 600-plus teachers on July 6. The Ceres School Board approved the agreement with a unanimous vote Monday night.

"The Board recognizes and appreciates the tremendous sacrifices being made by our employees," said Eric Ingwerson, trustee president. "It has been our ongoing objective not to lay off staff, nor to negatively impact students, and this agreement accomplishes these goals and reflects the character of the parties involved."

Specifics of the agreement include:

• An 8.5 percent reduction in salary for the 2010-11 school year. This reduction is equal to one that will also be taken by classified staff and administrators in 2010-11.

• Restoration language that specifies conditions for increasing salaries when funding is available from the state or federal government.

• Salaries being incrementally restored by one percent in each of the following two school years by increasing class sizes. Both parties are committed to returning class sizes to their current levels once salaries are restored, and this commitment is reflected in the agreement.

• Teachers furloughed for five professional development/work days until the entire salary reduction has been restored.

• Preservation of the 180 student day calendar for the 2010-11 school year. This will continue in the ensuing years if CUSD is able to restore one additional percent to salaries. Otherwise, the student year will be 178 days in length. Both parties agree that this provides CUSD with an incentive to restore salaries as quickly as possible.

• Additional concessions by CUSD in the areas of staff meeting time, personal necessity leave and teacher evaluation timeliness.

"The agreement attempts to meet the needs of both parties during these troubled economic times, given the size of funding cuts from the State, and protects the integrity of the educational experience for the students of Ceres Unified School District," said CUTA President Cheryl Brewer.

CUSD sought concessions for 2010-11 to offset a projected $5.5 million budget gap.

During the months leading up to the contract resolution, CUTA leadership and members voiced opposition at School Board meetings and participated in an hour-long rally on May 19 at all four corners of the intersection at Hatch and Mitchell roads to protest the 8.5 percent across-the-board pay cut.

"I understand that this will be difficult for all of our staff-teachers, classified personnel and administrators alike-but in the final analysis, the students of the school district will be the real winners in this situation," said CUSD Supt. Scott Siegel.

Added board trustee Mike Welsh: "We're happy and relieved."