Castaic school board approves raise for teachers Thursday

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After years of hard cuts, Castaic Union School District officials approved a raise for local educators Thursday, saying financial conditions are the most promising they’ve been in years.

“What’s on the agenda is a 3 percent raise across the board and a 1 percent bonus this year (for teachers),” said Laura Pearson, board president for the Castaic Union School District, before the board’s regular meeting Thursday, when the raise was approved.

The move would show up as a 4 percent raise for teachers this year, and then going forward, a regular 3 percent raise in the salary schedule.

Governing board members said while the move was cautiously studied to make sure it was a sustainable increase, in light of the uncertainty surrounding enrollment projections, they received an OK from two separate reviews, including the district’s auditors, Pearson said.

“The other thing that we’re going to be doing is gap coverage, which is for employees who retire if they’ve been with the district 15 years or longer,” she added Thursday ahead of the board meeting, eager to share news of the support of the district’s educators.

The move is part of an effort to encourage teachers who might be ready for retirement, but staying on to keep benefits until they’re eligible for social security, which is becoming more common due to the rising cost of health insurance, officials said.

By this reasoning, if a teacher is 61, but ready to retire, then this move could, in theory, incentivize that teacher, who would also be on the highest end of the district’s pay scale, to be able to retire and still receive health benefits from the district until the teacher turns 65. This would allow the district to bring on a new teacher at a lower cost, and if all goes to planning and budget, the district would then likely be able to avoid issuing pink slips this year, Pearson said.

Pink slips are tentative notifications that districts are required to put out toward the end of the school year if they need to notify a teacher of a potential layoff.

“It means the world to be able to do this for the teachers,” said Susan Christopher, who’s serving on her ninth year on the board. This is the first time the board has been able to offer a raise during her tenure.

“It’s been heartbreaking not to be able to give them the resources and the support that they deserve,” Christopher said, noting how the board wanted to be sure the district was prepared to give a sustainable raise. “You never want to give a raise to put the teachers back in the same situation again, so we were really careful.”

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