Madera teachers poised to vote on contract agreement

The Fresno BeeAugust 28, 2013 

Madera Unified teachers are getting ready to vote on a proposed contract agreement that's been a political hot potato for more than a year.

More than 900 teachers will have a chance to cast their vote Wednesday night on a plan promising a 2% salary bump and revisions to an initial proposal requiring teachers to attend training sessions without pay.

The most recent agreement will pay teachers their hourly rate for after-school training sessions and give educators more power than initially proposed to voluntarily transfer to another school.

But neither side is holding their breath: David Holder, president of the Madera Unified Teachers Association, said it's hard to know if union members will sign off on the deal.

"It's difficult to assess because of the level of anger and frustration that's built up over the last six or seven years," he said. "We're going to have to wait until the end and see what happens."

Even if teachers pass the plan -- which requires a simple majority vote -- Madera Unified Superintendent Ed Gonzalez said both the school board and the Madera County Office of Education need to ratify it.

It's been a long and tumultuous trek for both teachers and administrators working to iron out disagreements on the contract that outlines teacher salaries and benefits.

Teachers union representatives have more than once said a strike was possible, but plans never materialized.

A mediator and fact-finding committee tried to find middle ground between the parties, but talks stalled over the summer when the fact-finding group took longer than expected to evaluate the contract proposals.

"The last several years have been extremely difficult for school districts and school personnel," Gonzalez said, "and when you combine a difficult economic climate with some other stresses ... you have a perfect recipe for tension and mistrust and I think that's what we've seen over the last few years."

Holder said it could take at least two hours to tabulate the votes, depending on how many members cast ballots. Teachers are allowed to vote between 3:30 and 6 p.m. Wednesday.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6412, or @hannahfurfaro on Twitter.

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