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Deal ends Hart, teacher stalemate

Class sizes and counselor-student ratios would increase

Posted: September 3, 2009 9:28 p.m.
Updated: September 4, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Class sizes would increase to 39 students in local high schools, and the counselor-to-student ratio would jump to 1 to 400, under an agreement reached by Hart district officials and teachers.

The tentative agreement, which lifts a three-month impasse in negotiations, must be approved by the union rank-and-file and by the William S. Hart Union School District's board. It is expected to go before board members at the Sept. 16 meeting, said Rochelle Neal, assistant superintendent of human resources and student services.

While Neal was unable to comment on specifics of the agreement, she called it "major progress."

"We've reached an agreement that we believe helps the district solve their financial issues for this year and next year," said Leslie Littman, president of the Hart District Teachers Association, which represents about 1,000 teachers.

The agreement calls for class sizes to increase by three students per class this school year, bringing the average class size to 39 students in high school, 38 in junior highs, Neal said.

If the agreement is approved, the class size increase would remain in effect at least through next school year.

The ratio between students and guidance counselors would increase from one counselor for every 350 students to one counselor for every 400 students at a school site, Littman said.

She said union representatives hope the agreement means no teachers will be laid off.

But the association remains concerned about possible additional cuts.

"The budget situation is not improving," Littman said. "Until we get some sort of improvement at the state level, times are going to be tough for the next couple of years."

Unlike other bargaining units, the teachers were able to avoid a cap on health benefits, one of the biggest sticking points in contract negotiations.

Hart district administrators and classified unions agreed to a health-benefit cap of $13,500 earlier this year.

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