After more than a year of negotiations and with the help of a mediator, Petaluma teachers and the Petaluma City Schools District have reached a new salary and labor agreement.
The tentative deal signed Friday gives teachers an overall 5.6 percent base salary increase for this school year and next, but also requires them to work two more days. There is additional one-time retroactive pay.
“The teachers have been coming together for well over a year for a fair and equitable settlement. This is the first time that we have seen anything close to that,” said Carrie Caudle, spokesperson for the Petaluma Federation of Teachers. “It’s very heartening.”
“I think both sides feel good,” said Superintendent Steve Bolman, who is retiring at the end of June. “We stretched to provide teachers with a reasonable salary increase.
“The board administration feels the agreement is a fair increase, honoring the hard work of our teachers,” he said.
Bolman said the governor’s budget provided more money to schools, allowing the district to offer additional one-time pay increases.
Petaluma is the latest in a string of Sonoma County school districts to settle contracts with their teachers after protracted negotiations, impasse and in some cases threats of strikes that were averted.
Santa Rosa City Schools reached a tentative agreement this week with their teachers, on the heels of similar tentative deals teachers have reached with school districts in Cotati-Rohnert Park and Windsor.
Under the tentative agreement in Petaluma, teachers will get a 2.5 percent base pay increase for 2014-15, plus a one-time 2.25 percent raise retroactive for this school year.
For 2015-16, they will receive a 2 percent base pay increase, plus 1.1 percent for working two extra days. In addition, they will get a one-time, 2 percent salary increase in the next school year.
“We feel we got the best we could possibly get at this point for our members and leave the district feeling comfortable,” said Sandra Larsen, the union’s chief negotiator.
The contract also adds a salary step increase. Instead of topping out with a maximum salary at 24 years’ experience, teachers will get an additional step increase when they get to 25 years in the classroom.
About 50 teachers will be eligible for the higher step pay, according to Larsen.
The deal will be up for ratification next week by the 460-plus member union, which represents teachers, counselors, librarians and school psychologists.
Bolman said the raises and retroactive pay amount to about $3 million more being paid to the teachers through June 30, 2016, when the contract will run out.
The district encompasses six elementary schools in the Petaluma City Elementary School District with an enrollment of about 2,120. The Petaluma Joint Union High School District includes two junior high schools, a community day school, two high schools, two alternative/continuation schools and a continuation high school, with a combined enrollment of about 4,900.
Petaluma teachers and the district began bargaining in March 2014. Initially, teachers sought a 7 percent salary increase for the 2014-15 year, but the district offered only 2 percent, according to union spokesperson Caudle. As negotiations dragged on, the union agreed to ask for a 4 percent increase with the school administration willing to give 2.5 percent, she said.
“It’s been exhausting, a long year,” Caudle said . “Our morale has been at a low. We felt disrespected and disregarded by the administration and the school board.”