Talks stall between Paso Robles school district, teachers union

slinn@thetribunenews.comFebruary 13, 2013 

Teachers hold signs declaring “Where’s the accountability?” and “Where did $1.59 million go?” during a Paso Robles school board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012.

DAVID MIDDLECAMP — dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com Buy Photo

The Paso Robles Joint United School District and the Paso Robles teachers union were at an impasse Wednesday after meeting with a state mediator.

“We tried hard to find a compromise,” Jim Lynett, executive director of Paso Robles Public Educators, said in a news release Tuesday. But he said negotiations were unsuccessful.

After fielding comments from community members, parents and staff at four town-hall meetings in late January and early February, the district Board of Education agreed that “the elimination of furlough days is paramount,” district Superintendent Kathleen McNamara said Wednesday.

Board members directed staff to eliminate furlough days but balanced that move with other cost-cutting measures.

In their “last, best and final offer” to Paso Robles Public Educators on Tuesday, the district proposed establishing a 183-day work year that would include 180 student instruction days, reducing the teachers’ salary schedule by 4.86 percent and capping health and welfare benefits at their current levels.

That offer did not sit well with the teachers union, which proposed restoring a full school year and teacher salaries in the 2013-14 school year, when the district is slated to receive an additional $4.5 million in state funding.

Although the 18 furlough days taken by employees since March have helped Paso Robles regain its financial footing, McNamara said the district isn’t in the clear yet.

“Although we’re hopeful that funding will be restored, we just can’t base our budgets on hope,” she said. “We’re still in a very fragile place. We have to be very prudent. We have to be very pragmatic. We have to be very cautious.”

McNamara said the district has sent Paso Robles Public Educators a revised offer and is awaiting their response.

In the meantime, the teachers union has asked the mediator for fact-finding to examine the district’s budget and books.

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