“It’s an insult,” Palmer said. Superintendent Patricia Howell said the current offer gives teachers a 4 percent increase in total compensation. That includes – for most teachers – a 2 percent pay hike already rolled into the salary schedule, and a 1 percent increase in the cost of health and welfare benefits. Coupled with the one-time 1percent bonus, the district is offering a 4 percent bump in pay, Howell said. But Palmer said there is a “freeze” in the pay schedule that occurs in the 11th year, and some teachers “don’t move for five years.” “Plus, the district eliminated 13 teaching positions this year from last year, and when you take both of those things into account, the district actually broke even on the pay schedule,” Palmer said. “It didn’t cost them anything.” The 3,220-student district hit financially rough waters in the fall of 2005, when county education officials failed to approve Lowell Joint’s budget because it overestimated revenues, among other issues. Initially, the district said it was selling its Grovedale Elementary site to shore up a $710,000 gap in the 2005-06 budget. But, in order to avoid about $650,000 in state penalties for using the proceeds of the school sale, Howell said the district just ended up using extra state money they received this year to backfill last year’s negative balance. And that’s a problem for teachers, who say the Grovedale sale was intended to shore up last year’s budget – and if it wasn’t used for that purpose, then it shouldn’t have been sold. “We are teachers. We are in the business of teaching children, not vouching for the district or taking more than what we feel is fair,” Palmer said. “They are lessening the allure of staying in Lowell Joint by not offering a fair and competitive salary.” The next bargaining session is scheduled March 28. “We’ll see where we go from there,” Howell said. “It’s really important to remember we care about all of our staff. But at the same time, we are responsible for making sure the district is fiscally responsible.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955 Ext. 3051 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WHITTIER – Teachers in the Lowell Joint School District turned up the heat on contract negotiations Monday, taking their demands for a 5.92 percent pay raise to the streets in protest of the district’s current offer. Waving signs that read, “We want what’s right, not what’s left over,” dozens of teachers walked back and forth Monday evening from the front of the district office to Leffingwell Road before the regular school board meeting, urging passing motorists to honk in their support. Teachers and administrators have been to the bargaining table nine times since talks began in November – “but once the money was brought up, \ have not been amicable since,” said Margaret Palmer, co-president of the Lowell Joint Education Association that represents the teachers. The main point of contention is a teacher pay hike. Teachers want a 5.92 percent raise, while the district has offered a one-time, 1 percent bonus only through the end of this school year.
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