Teachers get raises, with no raised voices

MV Whisman inks a drama-free deal with teachers union

Last year's bitter standoff between administrators and the teachers union over salaries didn't materialize during negotiations this year, marking a cordial new relationship between the Mountain View Whisman School District and its teachers union.

Union representatives say it's too soon to say whether teacher retention rates in the district have improved because of the more competitive salaries.

Negotiations between the district and the Mountain View Educators Association went smoothly because of a change in leadership, according to its president, Jonathan Pharazyn. He said Interim Superintendent Kevin Skelly, who stepped down June 30, brought a whole different tenor to the conversation.

"He understood that teachers are your most important resource in the district. They definitely demonstrate that in Palo Alto, and he brought that mindset here," Pharazyn said.

By contrast, negotiations last year ended with an impasse, when former Superintendent Craig Goldman offered a 3.25 percent salary increase -- far from the 7 percent requested by the union -- and insisted that the teachers in the district were well-compensated.

Pharazyn said Goldman would often look at the negotiations from a "numbers" point of view and concern himself with how salary adjustments would affect the bottom line, rather than what would be in the best interest of the students.

This year, teachers got a 4 percent raise along with a one-time salary increase of 1 percent. The second sizable bump in salaries in two years may have put the district's compensation on par with other districts in the Bay Area, Pharazyn said, but it won't be clear until the fall when the local chapter of the CTA compiles that information.

Other notable changes include an extra 45-minute break for first-, second- and third-grade teachers to focus on class preparation and collaboration with other teachers. The period would also mean students in those grades would be getting a second physical education class each week, instead of just one.

Beyond teacher pay, Skelly said one of the biggest components of the revised contract is a greater emphasis on professional development, including a three-day math curriculum training session over the summer. Skelly said more than 80 percent of teachers plan to attend, and that they will be compensated for taking part in the training.

"It's a big commitment for the teachers," Skelly said.

In light of growing class sizes at schools like Huff and Monta Loma Elementary, teachers handling huge classes will also be paid more in the revised contract. Teachers will be paid $45 per week for each student over the maximum specified in the contract, up from $30.

What remains a contentious issue is whether to provide stipends to teachers who have master's or doctoral degrees. CUrrently, teachers and administrators get neither, and it's not clear why, Pharazyn said. He said the decision appears to be a board directive, rather than an administrative one, and it makes Mountain View Whisman School District an outlier.

Of all 33 school districts in Santa Clara County, Pharazyn said the only districts that don't offer the stipends are Alum Rock Union Elementary School District in East San Jose and Morgan Hill Unified School District.

"It puts us at a competitive disadvantaged with other local districts in the area," he said.

There's also the question of how many teachers will be leaving the districts this year and will need to be replaced, which will be reported in August. Pharazyn said the district not only loses quality teaching staff each year, but its investment in professional development.

"That's the dilemma that the district really needs to come to grips with," Pharazyn said.

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14 people like this
Posted by Maher
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Jul 7, 2015 at 2:30 pm

Let's make school administrators' salary increases dependent on keeping best teachers in the classrooms. And let the students and their parents choose who the "best" teachers are. Let's just turn upside down the dependency dynamic and see how that works.

7 people like this
Posted by MVWSD parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 7, 2015 at 2:36 pm

The two concerns I have with what was stated above were the amount teachers will receive per student over the maximum specified in their contract & the request to give teachers stipends for masters and doctorate degrees.

Giving teachers more money to teach over the maximum number of students may be good for the teachers and the administrators, but not for the students. So will this mean that a teacher with poor class management skills will taken on more students to receive a higher paycheck, while the students suffer? I've seen classes where the teacher shouldn't even have one student, much less any amount over the maximum.

It's fine give teachers with masters and doctorate degrees more money, but it HAS to be a degree that will benefit the classroom, not just any degrees. Can the Voice clarify this request?

5 people like this
Posted by bdwyer
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 7, 2015 at 2:39 pm

Great news! BRAVO Mr. Pharazyn ---
Now the next thing Jonathan Pharazyn should do is to re-instate the phonomenal Acting teacher that our unfeeling school board let go - Rob Seitelman is one of the best teachers MVHS had ever seen in this department and went above and beyond for the entire school and the students! If Mr. Pharazyn had been at that board meeting, where so many kids and parents and teachers spoke on Seitelman's behalf, I am confident he would do the right thing - which the board so insultingly failed to do!

6 people like this
Posted by with terms
a resident of Rex Manor
on Jul 7, 2015 at 3:21 pm

Teachers definitely need a raise in this district,however PACT teachers with parents helping in classes 2 and 3 per day. Definitely not!!!

3 people like this
Posted by parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 7, 2015 at 4:25 pm

@bdwyer, you've forgotten that the elementary and middle schools are one school district (MVWSD) and the high schools are another (MVLASD).

I agree that it's puzzling that Mr. Seitelman (the drama teacher who was extremely well-liked by students and parents) was not asked to return and and it is frustrating that the district is not allowed to discuss personnel issues. My guess is that trustees at MVLASD chose to not intervene in the administration's decision. Which is not to say they should not hear about it from unhappy parents and students! Yes it is bewildering how a teacher who had such a positive impact on his students could be rejected with no explanation.

26 people like this
Posted by Teacher in the district
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Jul 7, 2015 at 6:28 pm

@rex manor

Many schools have teachers who have parent help. To place this judgement on Stevenson isn't right. As a teacher at Bubb, I had many parents in and out each day. I've seen the same with my collegues and friends of my kiddos at Huff, Landels, Castro, etc. There are wonderful volunteers of parents, community members, and former students at every school. Sometimes the volunteer amounts vary based on teacher needs and desires as well as class make-up each year. We, as a community, need to stop pitting schools against each other. We are a diverse community with schools that fit all different types of needs and situations. How blessed we are. I feel grateful each day that I work in this district and that my kids have the benefit of attending this district as well.

10 people like this
Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Jul 8, 2015 at 8:44 am

There are several issues on teachers salary schedule that were negotiated. Mid contract negotiations are more adjustments, rather than major contract rewrites. The salary schedule was simplified, and the number of graduate units was continued as a basis of scale - and not a graduate degree. There is significant research, that graduate courses in the right areas, can increase teaching productivity. There is much less data, that shows the paper degree makes any difference. There is also survey information, from a Stanford public policy class project, that MVWSD teachers do not consider 'a grad degree' indicative of 'a better teacher'.

Dr. Skelly - to 'make things uniform' changed the Administrative salary scale to take OUT grad degree stipend. Teachers and Administrators are now treated the same on this small point of compensation.

After last year - I'm glad Mr. Pharazyn has decided to stay on as both a teacher (he is near retirement) and the MVEA President in this transitional year.

SN is a Trustee of the MVWSD, and these are his own opinions.

16 people like this
Posted by @ Steven Nelson
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jul 8, 2015 at 3:55 pm

Do you really have to have the last word on every story related to MVWSD? You generally add nothing of value, other than you can have blather on about what a wonderful Board member you are and try to impress everyone with your knowledge.

9 people like this
Posted by @Steven Nelson
a resident of Waverly Park
on Jul 8, 2015 at 5:28 pm

Are you kidding me? Steve Nelson is a 24/7/365 publicity machine, whose sole purpose is to promote Steve Nelson, and to attack those who do not worship the aforementioned Steve Nelson.


9 people like this
Posted by mr_b
a resident of Monta Loma
on Jul 10, 2015 at 12:25 am

I haven't always agree with Nelson's behavior and his point of view (or Chiang's for that matter), but I very much appreciate that board members use an important channel like the Voice to discuss or provide their take and reasoning. I wish more of the board members would use this channel since our community relies a lot on the Voice for information.

Don't simply complain about his presence here, keep it mature and civil and argue the points about the thread topic (if you actually have any).

I don't think it's a bad thing to get rid of the degree stipend if they are adding columns to the salary schedule in order to encourage more lifelong professional development in the teaching pool.

Finding ways to compensate teachers so that they can afford to live in our community (or even in the same county) is going to be the challenge of the next decade for school districts in the bay area.

3 people like this
Posted by Last Word
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2015 at 12:59 am

Nobody else comment and then this is the last year.

I'm sure the teacher salary adjustment was much easier in light of the State Budget upping funding for next year to the tune of $1000 per student.

You have to spend the money on something. What else could be more useful? New lampshades and drapes?

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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