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Bellevue teachers, school district compromise on contract

Teachers in Santa Rosa's Bellevue School District have inked a deal with the district that will give teachers a 6 percent pay raise and an enhanced benefits package, an agreement both sides in the sometimes strained negotiations are calling a win.

The deal, brokered by a mediator, comes as tensions remain over the launch of a new charter school which has already started with a summer school program for the inaugural class of seventh graders.

But both the 100-member Bellevue Educators Association and Superintendent Alicia Henderson expressed satisfaction with the one-year contract, which will boost the pay of every teacher in the district while also adding 1.5 percent to the benefits package.

Teachers had pushed for 5 percent across-the-board pay raises and a 4.5 percent increase to medical benefits.

Henderson, entering her second year at the helm of the 1,700-student district, had advocated for greater equity between the district's beginning teachers and those across the county's other elementary districts. She also pushed to close the gap between beginning and veteran teachers within the district.

The majority of Bellevue's teachers are in the upper sections of the pay schedule and union officials had argued that a sharp boost to new teachers when compared with veterans was unfair.

The new deal pushes the salaries of Bellevue's newest teachers to a starting point of $41,897 without medical benefits. Those at the top end of the schedule could earn $87,759.

The salary increase is retroactive to July of 2012, but the increase to medical benefits kicks in this month.

The cost to the district in 2012-13 for the raises is slightly more than $400,000. The district's revenues for the upcoming school year are $16.6 million with a 25 percent reserve.

The deal retains the current system of annual pay boosts for teachers based on tenure, credentials and postgraduate work. Those boosts automatically add 3 to 5 percent to a teacher's pay each year.

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