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CUTA, CUSD reach settlement
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With help from an impartial fact-finding panel, Ceres Unified School District and its teachers union reached a tentative agreement on a new contract on Tuesday, June 22 after negotiating for four hours.

Details of the pact are being withheld pending ratification. The Ceres Unified Teachers Association represents 617 employees.

"I'm very happy we reached a resolution," CUTA President Cheryl Brewer said. "It was closer to middle ground. I look forward to presenting it to our members for a vote."

"We believe the teachers of the district did what was best for kids," CUSD Supt. Walt Hanline said.

The district and union presented proposals during a fact-finding hearing on May 24.

CUSD wants to reduce teachers' salaries by 8.5 percent in fiscal year 2010-11 to help close a projected $5.5 million budget gap. The move prevents layoffs and cuts to student programs according to district officials.

The teachers union proposed taking a 5.4 percent pay cut and shortening the school year from 180 days to 175. CUTA suggested adding 10 minutes to each school day to make up for the extra days off.

"They (fact-finding panel members) provided the foundation for the resolution," Hanline said. "The winners of this are the kids of Ceres Unified School District. They're the priority."

Said Brewer: "CUTA accepted the fact-finding report and the district agreed with it also."

A possible strike by teachers was avoided.

CUTA's negotiation team included Nancy Oudegeest, Steve DePue, Steve Jones, Biff Galbraith and Greg Ratto.

Denise Wickham, Scott Siegel, Marla Mack, Connie Stark, Roman Munoz, Fred Van Vleck, Jay Simmonds, Mary Jones and Ron Bennett represented CUSD.

The Ceres chapter of the California School Employees Association, which represents 513 workers, ratified a contract agreement with CUSD on May 6. CSEA voted to accept an 8.5 percent salary cut, part of which could be given back if the budget improves.

The Ceres School Board adopted a resolution on Jan. 21 that decreases the salary of district administrators, classified management and confidential employees by the same amount, effective July 1, 2010.

Trustees Eric Ingwerson, Faye Lane, Jim Kinard, Mike Welsh, Betty Davis, Valli Wigt and Lourdes Perez also agreed to reduce their monthly stipends.