Friday, November 27 , 2015, 9:15 am | Fair 58º

Seeking New Contract, Santa Maria Faculty Association to Picket at School Board Meeting

By Tanya Guiremand for the Santa Maria Joint Union High School Faculty Association |

The Santa Maria Joint Union High School District certificated staff will perform their third informational picket in the past month from 5 to 6 p.m. Wednesday in hopes of obtaining a new contract. The demonstration will be in front of Righetti High School, 941 Foster Road, prior to the regularly scheduled 6:30 p.m. school board meeting in the school’s cafeteria.

The demonstration is the latest action by the Faculty Association in an effort to continue to shine a light on the negotiations process that has been ongoing since March. Faculty Association teachers previously demonstrated prior to last month’s meeting at Santa Maria High School and in front of the district office a week later.

Negotiations between the district and the Faculty Association lasted nearly 23 hours at their last bargaining session on Feb. 3. The next scheduled negotiation session is Friday, and Faculty Association President Mark Goodman was hopeful an agreement could be reached at that time.

“The Faculty Association has bargained in good faith and made real attempts at compromise,” Goodman said. “We hope that the school board has reached a point where they are also willing to move forward in the spirit of compromise, honor their negotiations and not try to dictate additional terms to settle the contract.”

Certificated staff members have not received a raise in six years and have seen the district’s contributions to their health-care plan remain unchanged since 2007. With rapidly rising health-care costs, this means the percentage that the district contributes to the certificated health care plan has fallen from 92 percent 12 years ago to currently just 68 percent. This represents an additional pay cut to teachers. The school board, meanwhile, continues to fund its own health insurance at 92 percent.

Goodman also noted a Feb. 9 story of the San Luis Obispo Tribune that compared 13 area school districts, including SMJUHSD. It revealed that SMJUHSD Superintendent Mark Richardson’s 2012-13 salary of $196,000 was the highest among all superintendents surveyed, and $8,520 more than his nearest counterpart. Richardson’s salary has also since been increased to $213,000 for the 2013-14 school year.

Projections based on state data are that this year’s per-student increase will be at least 5.86 percent. Additionally, recent changes in the state’s funding formula mean more funding will be given to the district in the future. However, the board has continued to push a plan that would allow the district to change the 28-to-1 hiring ratio, increase student class sizes, and reduce the amount of time teachers have to plan for classes and help students each week.

Meanwhile, the raises given to the superintendent and other administrators within the district range from 4.8 percent to 14.2 percent for this year alone.

In contrast, neighboring districts have used these recent opportunities to secure labor agreements with their faculty associations without asking for significant changes to their contracts. Orcutt Union School District, for example, on Dec. 11 agreed to a 4 percent on-schedule raise, 4 percent off-schedule raise, and a half-percent increase in health care contributions for its faculty association.

The Guadalupe school board, meanwhile, also rewarded its teachers in January with a contract extension that included a 3 percent raise without any concessions from their faculty association.

Negotiations between the two sides have largely been stalled since March and have left the teachers working without a contract for more than a year. In July, the district replaced all of the local school administrators who usually participated in bargaining with a single professional negotiator from out of state at a cost of $150 an hour. Also at that time, the district and its outside representative demanded a list of concessions from the Faculty Association. The majority of these concessions would either eliminate or seriously degrade the ability of teachers to give input into how they engage in the crucial work of educating their students.

In early December, teacher negotiators and the negotiator for the school district reached an agreement in principle where each side would have made some gains and some concessions. The school board rejected this agreement, demanding more concessions from teachers.

— Tanya Guiremand is vice president of the Santa Maria Joint Union High School Faculty Association.

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