Wednesday morning, Idyllwild School teachers stood in front of the building with signs supporting the Hemet Teachers’ Association’s effort for a new contract, including pay raises for teachers. Hemet Unified School District and HTA are still trying to negotiate a contract for last school year, 2013-14.
A fact-finding process began Monday, Dr. LaFaye Platter, HUSD’s deputy superintendent confirmed. This may lead to resolution if the committee finds an alternative acceptable to both HUSD and HTA. Failure of the fact-finding effort could lead to a work stoppage or strike, according to teacher Tom Dillon, HTA representative for Idyllwild School.
The fact-finding panel is composed of three representatives. HUSD and HTA each choose one member of the panel. These two choose the third member.
The hearing is private and both sides present their arguments. The panel will try to mediate a settlement. If unsuccessful, it will present a report with recommendations, which are not binding. HUSD may choose to accept one and impose it. HTA may also accept or ask members if they wish to strike.
HTA has stressed that it “would like to avoid a strike.”
HUSD has offered a 4-percent increase to the salary schedule retroactive to July 1, 2013, along with a $1,500 increase to health and welfare costs. The total percentage increase of the district’s salary and health benefit proposal is about 6 percent.
Anticipating the possibility of a strike, HUSD increased its payments to substitute teachers beginning this month.
“We’re hoping the new funds in the governor’s budget proposal will help get a settlement,” Dillon said. “Fact-finding is the last resort. These negotiations have been going on for two years.”
Teachers feel as if HUSD’s administration is not paying attention to them, the district’s assets. Frustration has been expressed over the raises Supt. Dr. Barry Kayrell and other senior administrators received this summer, but teachers’ requests have been denied.
“He’s taking credit, but he doesn’t care,” said Sarah Wales, special education teacher at Idyllwild. “If they have some more money for substitutes, why not more to pay teachers? It’s an insult, a slap in the face.”