Teachers on board with furloughs | TheUnion.com

Teachers on board with furloughs

Furlough days are one step closer to reality after the Nevada Joint Union High School District and the teachers union signed a tentative agreement Thursday.

Negotiations were set to continue next week, but officers of the teachers union, which represents all 195 teachers, approached district administrators earlier this week to accept the latest offer of five furlough days. If all 250 district employees agree to the five furlough days, it would reduce the estimated $2.1 million budget shortfall by $500,000 over the next school year, administrators estimate.

“It’s going to ultimately reduce the number of layoffs that we’ll have to live with,” said Superintendent Ralf Swenson.

But because the board has to allow at least 10 days between signing and ratifying the agreement, preliminary layoff notices must still be sent out as originally scheduled.

In all, 22.1 full-time-equivalent positions were slated for layoffs, including some staff positions (the number includes full- and part-time positions combined).

Districts are obligated to notify employees of a potential layoff by March 15.

The district comprises 11 schools, including Bear River, Nevada Union and alternative high schools. It serves more than 3,700 students.

The agreement calls for five furlough days for the next two school years and ends weeks of deliberations between district officials and teachers.

“All along, the teachers recognized we need to do our part,” said teachers union President Jim Drew. “For some people, it’s a hard pill to swallow.”

Drew said the language of the agreement was firmed up in the negotiating process.

Certain extra-curricular duties – such as chaperoning dances – were taken off teachers’ plates. A significant retirement incentive was also added, and teachers earn full service credit for the shortened school years. Teachers currently work 183 days per year, which means they would be paid for 178 days under a new labor agreement.

The next step is a secret ballot vote Tuesday. If the teachers accept the agreement, it will go to the board for approval at the regularly-scheduled meeting March 17.

“I have a feeling the teachers are ready to step up and pass this,” Drew said. “Some teachers are dead set against it, but the tide has turned for helping out.”

Teachers then must vote how they want to schedule the furlough days. They may be added to the end of the year to extend summer break, or during the year.

While Drew said the agreement has relieved some of the stress of weeks-long negotiations, the district is not yet finished with deliberations. It must meet with the classified employees union March 15 to continue the same process.

Still, the tentative arrangement represents dramatic progress.

“It’s been a real process,” Swenson said, “and it’s good to find both parties have come to an agreement from the perspective of shared sacrifice.”

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail mrindels@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4247.

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