The Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees unanimously voted to approve a salary increase and higher uniform benefit cap for a number of positions Tuesday evening in order to continue attracting and retaining the best employees for the district.
A 2 percent salary increase and an additional $1,000 to the district uniform benefit cap, which now stands at $8,124–both of which will be retroactive to July 1–were approved for district and site administration, classified management, student support personnel and confidential employees.
The Turlock Teachers Association, which encompasses over 700 members, including Head Start and State Preschool teachers, counselors, speech therapists and nurses, also received the salary increase and increased uniform benefit cap.
“Tonight serves as the final step to contract negotiations with Turlock Teachers Association for the 2016-17 school year,” said Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jason Maggard. “From the district’s perspective, negotiations closed at a positive light and ultimately resulted in a sound contract that is fair to the district and TTA.
“We didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but in the end we felt very positive about the tone of our meetings. They were always respectful and extremely productive,” continued Maggard.
Using 2015-16 salary schedules, TTA came in third regarding total compensation throughout Stanislaus County. When taken into consideration how expensive health benefits were compared to other districts, TTA President Julie Shipman said that ranking is “misleading.”
“Even with the $1,000 annual increase to the health benefits, that still doesn't pay for the cost of insurance for a single employee,” said Shipman. “For the upcoming year, we will briefly be at No. 1, but only until other districts such as Ceres, Modesto and Sylvan settle. If you look, we are still the only district of any size in our county who doesn't have binding arbitration, the standard for settling disputes in the United States.”
Shipman also urged the District Tuesday to consider a separate, higher salary schedule for speech and language pathologists.
“One thing the District has done for at least a few years now is basically ‘rent’ speech therapists from an agency who provides their services,” said Shipman. “We currently only have 10 speech and language pathologists, so increasing the salary schedule for them in order to provide the services needed so badly by some of our neediest students should be a priority for this district.”
Shipman said that TUSD is struggling to attract and retain speech therapists due to a shortage of speech therapists throughout the state and a lack of programs provided for the degree at local universities. It is because of this that Shipman said therapists in the district have around 80 students on their caseload, often prompting them to work for agencies outside of education for more pay.
“An obvious solution to me is to raise their salaries, get enough qualified therapists, and reduce their caseload numbers so they aren't overworked and students can get the adequate services they need and are required in their IEPs (Individual Education Plans),” said Shipman. “Many other districts have separate schedules for speech therapists.”