Kentfield School District and Kentfield teachers form agreement to escape decision deadlock on teacher salaries

Sofi Mincy

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On Aug. 7th, the Kentfield School District (KSD) and Kentfield Teachers Association (KTA) were able to settle on an agreement regarding a salary increase for the district’s teachers. About three months prior (May of 2019), the district had declared an impasse on the issue, allowing it to rest for the summer of 2019. However, the new agreement removed the KSD and KTA from the plateau, and satisfied the majority.

Kent Middle School begins their first few days of the 2019-2020 school year.

The agreement was a two year contract promising a two percent increase in teacher salaries for the 2019-2020 school year and a 2.5 percent increase for the 2020-2021 school year. According to Brad Widelock, holder of three positions on the KTA as the grievance chair, member of the negotiations team and general spokesperson of the KTA, teachers will receive a “smoothed out” salary schedule, having to do with additional raises.

“[Teachers] will receive a small incremental raise,” Widelock said. “In addition to that, whenever you get a raise, let’s say we negotiate for the [2021-2022] school year, you would get whatever your salary is, plus the new increase.”

Traditionally the district allots three consecutive days to go over contracts like these, ensuring that all matters are thoroughly discussed and agreed upon. According to Kentfield School District Superintendent Liz Schott, the salary agreement was efficiently discussed and voted on in the same day, resolving the impasse before the school year began.

“We weren’t really at impasse that long… In terms of the way these things can go, we were pretty happy with how quickly resolution came,” Schott said.

The original requests to raise teacher salaries roughly doubled the salary agreement that settled the dispute in the end. According to Widelock, the initial request from the KTA asked for about a 4.35 percent increase, which was rejected by the school board. Despite this, according to Heather McPhail Sridharan, president of the board, the votes tallied to favor the agreement. 

“Both sides were unanimous, which is such a testament. It’s a good compromised agreement,” Sridharan said. 

Bacich Elementary school hosts grades 1-4 Back To School Night on Wednesday the 4th.

Sridharan, also a mother of four children enrolled in the Kentfield schools, has heard many of the teachers in the district speak up about struggling to support their families while juggling the expensive costs of living in Marin with an insufficient salary to support the lifestyle.

“During [the meeting], it was very hard for all of us sitting on the board because we had a lot of teachers tell some really difficult stories about their personal finances and how difficult it is being a teacher in the Kentfield School District while trying to live in Marin or raise a family,” Sridharan said.

The KSD and KTA have settled the salary discussion until 2021, as the contract includes plans for the next two years. In October, a strategic planning process will fall into play including the KSD and KTA to ensure that the salary agreement is running smoothly, allowing for change if need be.