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Petaluma teachers OK new contract

Petaluma City Schools and its teachers have reached a tentative contract agreement after months of sometimes-contentious negotiations that required the involvement of a mediator.

The deal means that the current year will have 180 classroom days — up from 177 last year — as well as two teacher work days, two staff development days and one “flex unscheduled work day.”

The elimination of eight unpaid furlough days represents an approximately 4.5 percent increase to teachers' current pay and will cost the district about $1 million, according to Superintendent Steve Bolman.

The move requires the district, which is running a deficit of nearly $2.8 million this year, to dip into its reserve fund that is currently above the required 3 percent level.

Projected income for the nearly 7,800-student district is expected to be $64.5 million this year, while spending is projected at $67.2 million.

“We proposed, and we agreed, to dip into the reserve to fund the salary increase, and part of that was because the (teachers) worked with us to build the reserve,” Bolman said.

“I think it's a very good deal for everyone,” he said. “Getting their days back is great.”

But there is some lingering conflict over the definition of the new “flex unscheduled work day.”

Bolman described the day as one that must be worked but does not need to be reported to the district.

“I expect that our teachers will have worked at least 185 days by the end of the fiscal year,” he said.

But Terry Elverum, spokesman for the Petaluma Federation of Teachers, said the eighth day of the deal is a paid day off.

“It means they are paid for eight but only work seven,” he said.

“They have essentially been given a flex day or personal day,” he said.

The deal was passed 289-60 in an unofficial tally when the two-day voting period ended Wednesday, Elverum said.

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