Rowland Unified surprised by teachers’ contract impasse

By Staff Writer Richard Irwin

Rowland teachers have declared an impasse in the stalled contract negotiations with the Rowland Unified School District. The Association of Rowland Educators is asking the state to send in a mediator to handle further negotiations. District officials were surprised Tuesday by the sudden impasse, but they say they remain open to fair negotiations with the union’s 700 members.

“We’re still committed to negotiating with them in good faith,” said Superintendent Ruben Frutos.

Both sides say pay raises remain the largest stumbling block. The teachers want a 10 percent pay raise next year, the district has offered 2.5 percent the first year and 2 percent the next.

“Originally, the teachers wanted a 12 percent raise, 6 percent the first year, then 6 percent the second,” recalled Assistant Superintendent Douglas Staine. “We were surprised when they changed to 10 percent for one year.”

Rowland Unified had originally offered a 3.5 percent raise, 1.75 percent the first year and the same the second year.

Staine estimates a 10 percent raise would cost the district $6.7 million a year in additional payroll. The director of human resources noted that salaries already consume more than 85 percent of the district’s yearly budget.

The teachers’ union says Rowland’s instructors are paid less than other school districts. They say they only want parity.

Beginning teachers with a bachelor’s degree and no experience earn an annual salary of $45,180 at Rowland, which is ranked 18th out of 47 school districts in a salary survey from the Los Angeles County Office of Education for 2012-2013.

District officials say such comparisons are misleading because the vast majority of their teachers are at the top end of the pay scale. When asked for a salary analysis, they provided this information.

More than 20 percent of Rowland instructors earn $80,000 to $90,000 a year. They would get close to $9,000 more with a 10 percent raise, bringing them to almost $100,000 a year.

Read more in IMPASSE.