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Gilroy teachers and their bosses agree they made some headway in contract negotiations last week, with the district claiming this week that “both the district and GTA are optimistic that a tentative agreement will be reached.”

The two sides had left an all-day fact-finding session and a late night negotiating session on Sept. 14 with no new deal in place.

A three-person panel heard evidence from the district and Gilroy Teachers Association negotiating teams and “then both sides worked very hard on additional negotiations until midnight,” according to a statement from Gilroy Unified School District.

“The district significantly moved in its position, but specifics may not be discussed as we are all bound by a confidentiality agreement,” according to the district’s Sept. 16 press release.

“GTA and GUSD are going back to the negotiating table today (Sept. 18),” said GTA President Jonathan Bass. “Both parties remain hopeful that a settlement can be reached. GTA is committed to negotiating a fair contract for its members.”

The teachers union’s final demand had been a 6 percent pay raise and 5 percent increase in district health care contributions, while the district’s last publicized offer was a 2 percent pay hike and no additional health care contributions. Gilroy teachers, the lowest paid among Santa Clara County school districts, have been working without a contract since the last three-year contract expired in June 2017.

“Although a settlement was close at the end of the session, both the district and GTA needed a little more time,” according to district staff. Negotiations were to resume the afternoon of Sept. 18.

In the interim, GTA will host a Sept. 19 community meeting from 6:30pm-7:30pm at the Gilroy High School Theater, where they will discuss “current negotiations status and the potential strike,” according to a post on the GTA’s Facebook page.

“GTA is committed to continuing the hard work of making teachers a priority in the GUSD budget,” according to a Sept. 15 Facebook post by GTA. “Unlike typical negotiations, during Fact Finding, GTA is bound by confidentiality and is not at liberty to provide any further details. We appreciate your support and understand that you are anticipating more information and are hopeful for a resolution.”

The fact-finding report will be drafted within the next four weeks and will contain the recommendations of the panel. If a tentative agreement is reached before the report is finalized, the report will not be released, district officials said this week.

“GUSD remains hopeful that a tentative agreement will be reached very soon so that we can focus all our efforts on our mission of providing high quality education to all children in our district,” according to the Sept. 15 statement.

The teachers had authorized a strike if no contract agreement was reached.
In the weeks leading up to the fact-finding session, district staff has taken precautionary measures in case of a work stoppage. The district has been recruiting substitute teachers with an enticing $500 daily rate (nearly four times the normal substitute pay). They also spent $4,400 for the production of an informational strike video for parents.

Teachers, parents and students have picketed outside recent school board meetings and also pleaded with school trustees during meetings to help end the impasse and offer a fair contract.

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