The Newport-Mesa Unified School District announced this week that it reached a tentative agreement with the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers, potentially ending a four-month-long stand-off with its teachers, nurses, and counselors.
The tentative agreement includes: A 3.5 percent raise effective Dec. 1, 2019; a start date of Aug. 24 for the 2020-21 academic calendar; an increase in district contributions toward members’ health and welfare benefits; and two less workdays for the 2020-21 school year.
“We’re glad to reach a tentative agreement,” NMFT President Britt Dowdy said. “The tentative agreement now goes to the members for a vote.”
The union is required to post the tentative agreement for at least 15 days and a ratification vote will be completed by Jan 31, Dowdy said.
“We appreciate the time and dedication of both negotiation teams to reach a tentative agreement,” Superintendent Fred Navarro said in a prepared statement.
The Board of Education approved the 2019-20 agreement last September with the Classified School Employees Association, which represents the District’s support staffers, for a 3.5 percent salary increase and raise the district’s contribution for health and welfare benefits to $20,441. The district’s tentative agreement with NFMT essentially matches that deal.
The district also confirmed that it will complete the installation of air-conditioning in classrooms at Newport Harbor High School prior to Aug. 24, the first day of school for the upcoming academic year. Construction is expected to start in July.
Newport-Mesa parents expressed concerns for years about sending their children back to school before Labor Day without air-conditioning in their classrooms. Tim Holcomb, assistant superintendent and chief operating officer, said district officials will try to minimize the impacts of construction on a slate of summer operations at Newport Harbor High.
The tentative agreement doesn’t resolve a 15-month-old legal dispute between the school district and certificated employees over how their healthcare plan is funded.
In October 2018, NMFT filed an unfair practice charge with the Public Employee Relations Board that the Newport-Mesa Unified School District violated state law by failing to fund employees’ 2017-18 health benefits as required by an approved agreement.
Dowdy and his fellow members were disappointed to learn the District stopped contractually-required contributions to the healthcare plan for employees who decline health benefits, a practice that had been around since at least 2001. Even though those employees aren’t taking advantage of the benefit, the District is still supposed to count them when making health insurance payments.
The District’s attorneys disagree with the union on how to interpret the contract.
“The legal dispute is still ongoing,” Dowdy said. “We had a continuance until the end of this month and then it will take some time for the administrative law judge to enter a ruling.”
If NFMT members ratify the agreement, district officials hope to bring it to the school board for approval in February.