Alameda's Board of Education on Tuesday accepted fresh proposals for items to be discussed in upcoming teacher contract negotiations. And some board members are already staking out positions on salaries and health benefits.

Specific proposals for a new three-year agreement will hit the bargaining table at a to-be-determined date, and Superintendent Kirsten Vital said the district will post the proposals on their website then.

Both the district and the Alameda Education Association have listed salaries and benefits as items they'd like to discuss at the bargaining table, with district administrators signaling a willingness to consider changes -- if they can pay for them.

"I have to say this is going to have to be consistent with the district's ability to pay," the district's human resources chief and lead negotiator, Tom Rust, said of potential increases in what the district pays for in teachers' health benefits. He said the district is focusing on a limited number of topics in an effort to conclude contract negotiations quickly.

District officials said it's tough to assess the feasibility of pay raises because state funding continues to be uncertain, and they want the ability to adjust salaries for the next two school years. They also want a committee to explore criteria for teacher performance pay.


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Teachers had asked for a 3 percent raise and full health benefits in exchange for keeping class sizes in kindergarten through third grade and ninth grade at 25 students per teacher, a proposal the district rejected. Union leaders believe the district has the money to pay raises and benefit costs, while district leaders have said they're using the money they have to cover existing bills.

School Trustee Mike McMahon said he doesn't expect to vote for a budget for next year that's bigger than the district's current one.

"I don't believe this district is in any way, shape or form able to address (pay and benefits), given the current state of California," McMahon said.

But Trustee Ron Mooney and board President Margie Sherratt said the district should consider increasing teachers' compensation.

"I understand that times continue to be murky and scary ... but I think this district still needs to talk to its employees about what it might be able to do," Mooney said.

Teachers union president Gray Harris and executive board member Connie Turner presented a list of 15 existing contract articles and one new article they'd like to discuss, which includes pay, benefits and class sizes. A state board declared an impasse over earlier class size negotiations and assigned a mediator to try to break it.

The district's maintenance, clerical and other staff are also in the midst of negotiations for a new three-year deal. Their contracts expired at the end of June.

District staff also made recommendations to approve four new magnet and innovative school programs aimed at providing choices that will keep more parents in the district, depending in part on parent interest and union agreements. The board is expected to vote on the plans Jan. 24.

District officials are recommending the board OK an arts magnet at Washington Elementary that ultimately would include grades 6-8 and a possible K-8 and innovative teaching program at Bay Farm Elementary, both would open next year. They also are recommending approval of an innovative program at Amelia Earhart for next year and a program serving grades 6-12 at Encinal High School to begin in 2013.

Contact Michele Ellson at michele@theislandofalameda.com.

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