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Teachers' contract approved

One-year agreement with Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers follows tense negotiations over healthcare costs and class sizes.

September 27, 2013|By Hannah Fry

Newport-Mesa Unified School District trustees unanimously approved a one-year contract with teachers during Tuesday's board meeting, ending months of contentious negotiations.

Before the board's approval, 94% of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers membership had voted to ratify the contract, said John Caldecott, executive director of human resources and chief negotiator for Newport-Mesa Unified School District.

"I think everybody was pleased with the outcome," he said. "It's a successful conclusion to all the issues that were pending in negotiations."

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The union, which represents 1,080 employees, had been without a contract since June 30. The new contract is retroactive to July 1.

Rising healthcare costs, increased class sizes and arbitration — how disputes are handled between the union and the district — were some of the most fervently debated issues during negotiations this year, said Kimberly Claytor, president of the federation.

"I am pleased that we were able to maintain benefits," said Nicholas Dix, executive director of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers. "I think that overall was the greatest victory for us."

The healthcare debate began when Anthem Blue Cross, the district's medical plan provider, raised premiums 6%, Caldecott said.

The union and the district began to discuss who would be responsible for the additional cost.

In June, employees agreed to take on higher individual costs in the form of co-pays and deductibles to reduce the expected per-monthly cost of their health insurance to 3% from 6%. In exchange, after months of negotiation, the district agreed to pick up the remaining 3% rate increase for medical benefits, which amounts to $700 per employee for the year.

"In negotiations, we felt the employees picked up half the increases, so the district should pick up the other 3%," Claytor said. "In the end, that's how it went."

Swelling class size was another sticking point. The district originally proposed an increase of 10 students per teacher, which would have required every middle and high school teacher to be responsible for 190 students per year.

"We beat back that proposal," Claytor said.

Instead, the union agreed to give the district five extra days at the beginning of the school year to work out scheduling issues so that the maximum 180 students per teacher could be maintained.

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