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Homework assignments may not be graded promptly, afternoon clubs may be canceled and teachers won’t be available for questions and extra help starting Monday in Santa Rosa City Schools.

That’s because, in the midst of contentious contract negotiations, the teachers union has asked its approximately 800 members to “work to rule” — to do only what is required under their contract and nothing more.

The weeklong effort is meant to demonstrate how much work teachers, counselors, nurses and psychologists put in on their own time to help students and their parents, Santa Rosa Teachers Association leader Amy Stern said.

“We need to make a statement,” she said. “We need to let them know we are professionals. We simply aren’t compensated fairly for the amount of education we have, and the time, effort and work we put in.”

Teachers are required to be in their classrooms 15 minutes before and 15 minutes after school hours. They say they typically spend dozens of extra hours a month helping students and parents, often working early, late and through their lunch breaks.

Stern said she expects about 90 percent of union members to work to the contract schedule this week.

District spokesman Jason Lea, the assistant superintendent for human resources, said he anticipates that the teachers will behave responsibly.

“We expect our teachers as professionals to continue to do all of their professional duties,” he said.

The union has increasingly ramped up its public campaign to pressure the district into offering its members a more favorable proposal for wages and health care coverage.

Wage increases and the cost of health benefits are the primary sticking points in the current Santa Rosa negotiations. The current three-year contract ends in June.

Talks, which began in September, broke down in February and March when two negotiating sessions lasted just a few minutes each. Last month, both sides agreed they had met an impasse.

That declaration set in motion a process by which the state Public Employees Relations Board assigns a mediator, who meets with both sides separately to try to hammer out a compromise.

The sides are scheduled to meet with a mediator Wednesday.

District leaders agree teachers are due a raise after years of stagnant wages that included unpaid furloughs and other sacrifices from educators. But the sides are stuck on how much and how to compensate them.

A district study in November showed that while Santa Rosa teachers’ wages were comparable to, or even higher than, some other districts, their benefits lagged well behind.

That trend began about 13 years ago, when teachers negotiated for the district to convert what it was paying toward their health care costs to their base salaries. Teachers believed they could buy health coverage cheaper on their own or would benefit from a spouse’s health coverage. The base pay also increased a teacher’s long-term retirement earnings.

But in the past decade, health care costs have skyrocketed, and teachers now want the district to begin paying for health care again. They also argue that lack of health benefits makes it difficult to attract and retain quality educators.

Santa Rosa teachers’ top-step wages are just under $81,000. The district’s study showed the statewide average salary in comparable districts is just under $84,000, while regional comparable districts pay about $78,000.

But when health care coverage is factored in to total compensation, Santa Rosa teachers fall to the bottom of the 11 districts examined.

Teachers want an overall 5 percent bump, with 2 percent, or about $3,500 annually, going toward health care costs and 3 percent toward salary.

The district’s latest proposal includes a 2 percent salary raise retroactive to July and an additional $1,500 a year toward medical costs beginning this July.

Guy Cottle, a Burbank Elementary School teacher for 16 years, said he doesn’t want to short students or their families but said it’s important to send a message that teachers are serious about being better compensated.

“I say, let’s do this uncomfortable thing now so we don’t have to do the drastic thing later,” he said.

The “drastic thing” is a strike. In 1980, teachers conducted an eight-week strike and ultimately won a 10 percent raise and 4 percent bonus, but not until after ugly negotiations, a substantial drop in school attendance and a lawsuit filed by parents to try to force teachers back to work.

Lea said he doesn’t expect the work-to-rule tactic to worsen current negotiations.

“We have a professional group of teachers who will continue to meet the educational needs of their students, who will not be harmed by union activity,” he said.

You can reach Lori A. Carter at 521-5470 or lori.carter@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @loriacarter.

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