School district reaches salary agreement with Walnut staff

Brian Chang, News Editor

Wednesdays will be looking brighter for members of the Walnut Valley Education Association.

Last Monday, staff members across the Walnut Valley Unified School District voted to accept an agreement to raise salaries over the next two years.

Under the new agreement, which is expected to be approved by the Board of Education sometime in April, salary will increase for all certified employees of the district over 2018 and 2019.

A two percent total increase will be enacted for this year, while another two percent raise is set for the next. Staff will also receive an additional one-time 2.27 percent payment this year.

The agreement follows silent protests by WVEA members, which began in January. Teachers wore black clothing on Wednesdays to show solidarity, and some attended the school board meetings in January and February to speak on behalf of the union.

According to Salli Collins, the Diamond Bar High School special-ed teacher and negotiator for the district, representatives from WVEA and the district were still discussing the negotiation late at night on March 2.

“We were at the district office until 10 at night,” Collins said. “We met with [district representatives] all day and then we met with them through the evening. They present theirs, we present our side, and we just go back and forth.”

School board president Cynthia Ruiz said she believes the agreement will strengthen the relationship between the district and the board.

“The board very much respects our teachers, classified employees and staff,” Ruiz said via email. “I believe the new agreement will further strengthen our relationship. With both parties coming to an agreement, this shows that we continue to strive to do what is best for our district, employees and its students. As a district and board we will continue to fight for fair and equal funding so that we can continue to grow our district and provide the best for our students and staff.”

While Collins said that the agreement would be good for the relationship between the district and the union, she expressed doubt that the salary raise would make a significant impact on the district as a whole since other districts have also consented to give raises to employees.

“It’s a beginning, it’s a step in the right direction,” Collins said. “Our biggest beef with the district has been about keeping our salaries competitive. We’re still not where we should be. Is this going to catch us up? Probably not…but it is a step in the right direction on behalf of the district.”