After two years of negotiations on a contract that expired in 2016, Ravenswood City School District teachers will receive a 7.5% raise this summer.
The school board unanimously approved (in a 4-0 vote, with Trustee Ana Maria Pulido absent) during a special meeting Tuesday night in East Palo Alto new contracts with both of its bargaining units. Both teachers and classified staff will receive a 2% salary increase retroactive to July 1, 2018, and a 5.5% raise that went into effect July 1, 2019.
The salary increases come after two years of budget cuts and discord amongst some teachers and staff who had voiced dissatisfaction with the district's former superintendent, Gloria Hernandez-Goff, including by taking a vote of no confidence in her leadership in 2017. This spring, Hernandez-Goff was placed on paid administrative leave and then forced to resign. The board appointed the district's director of student services, Gina Sudaria, to replace her on an interim basis.
Ravenswood Teachers Association President Ronda White said the new leadership struck a more positive, constructive tone in negotiations, resulting in the raises, additional stipends and better working conditions and health benefits.
"We believe that the work that we've done over the past three school years will hopefully retain and attract teachers," she told the Weekly.
Ravenswood teachers are still paid lower on average than those in many neighboring districts, White noted, but the increases are an improvement. A new teacher will now be paid a starting base salary of about $51,800 and experienced teachers can earn up to just under $97,000.
The retroactive teachers' raise will cost the district about $587,331 for the current fiscal year and the latter increase, about $1.28 million from the 2019-20 budget.
The retroactive salary bump for classified staff will cost $577,331 and the July 1 raise, $1.09 million.
The California School Employees Association's contract had also expired, in June 2017, and negotiations with that bargaining unit began in October of that year.
The raises went a long way toward boosting teacher morale, White said.
"There has been an incredible amount of positives, a total upswing of the morale of the district and of the community. We're going to need that moving into the next year because we have a lot of hard decisions we're going to have to make," she said.
As Ravenswood continues to navigate significant financial pressures, with enrollment and state funding on the decline and school closures likely ahead, its chief business officer is leaving. Steve Eichman, who held the position since January 2017, will retire from his job effective July 31.
Eichman declined to comment on his departure. A financial crisis came to a head during his tenure, resulting in warnings of fiscal insolvency, monitoring by the San Mateo County Office of Education and more than $5 million in budget cuts.
In the meantime, the board is looking to an outside consultant to advise the district on financial matters. James Lianides, the former superintendent of the Sequoia Union High School District, will coach and support Eichman until July 31 and then stay on to consult the district on an "as needed basis," according to an agreement the board unanimously approved on Tuesday.
Lianides charges $100 per hour and will bill Ravenswood monthly for his services, according to the district. His contract runs through next June.