Teachers vote yes on high school furlough plan | TheUnion.com

Teachers vote yes on high school furlough plan

The school year is about to get shorter by four instructional days and one staff development day after the high school district’s teachers union voted in favor of furloughs.

After a few leaders from the union and the Nevada Union Joint High School District signed a tentative agreement Friday, 128 union members voted to ratify it Tuesday. The measure passed by a significant majority, union president Jim Drew said.

“If we had taken the vote last fall, it would have been the exact opposite,” he said, pointing to a shift in teacher opinion on the cost-cutting measure, which will save $500,000 each year if all district employees participate.

Furloughs are only a fraction of the fix for the district, which plans to cut $2.1 million from a $31 million budget. Much of the problem comes after the cash-strapped state pulled back funding.

It’s an eleventh-hour save for a few jobs, since the board is set to approve the list of preliminary layoffs this afternoon, according to Superintendent Ralf Swenson. The original plan was to cut 22 full-time equivalent positions from a payroll of nearly 250 employees.

Part of the negotiations between union and district was allowing the teachers to choose whether the furlough days would take the form of four instructional days and one staff development day, or three instructional days and two staff days.

Teachers opted for fewer student days.

“It’s teacher prep time and a chance for administrators to share information to the teachers,” Drew said of staff development days. This year’s calendar includes three such days: One the day before classes begin in August, a second at the beginning of February and a third in mid-March.

“We wanted all along to minimize the instructional impact,” Swenson said about the choice. “But we want to work with the teachers.”

Where those days fall on the school calendar is yet to be determined in negotiations. The school typically has the lowest attendance on the days leading up to Thanksgiving, which makes that time frame attractive, Swenson said.

Energy costs are also a factor. The district will save more on utilities if the furlough days take place when nobody plans on being on campus. Extracurricular groups sometimes use school facilities even on days off.

There are lots of different opinions among teachers about where the furloughs should fit, Drew said.

Next in the process is board approval. Trustees will rubber-stamp the furlough agreement at their regular meeting March 17.

The district is also continuing negotiations with the classified employees union, which has not yet approved a furlough plan.

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

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