Monday, June 25 , 2018, 5:49 am | Overcast 63º

 
 
 
 

Santa Maria High School District Teachers Vote to Reject Tentative Contract

Possibility of strike re-emerges as 400-member union turns down proposed pact with 58 percent of vote

Teachers in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District had asked for a 6-percent pay increase, but the tentative agreement the union rejected this week was in the neighborhood of 3 percent.
Teachers in the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District had asked for a 6-percent pay increase, but the tentative agreement the union rejected this week was in the neighborhood of 3 percent. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk file photo)

Teachers with the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Faculty Association rejected a tentative agreement with the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District during voting this week, bringing back the possibility of a strike.

The total ballots cast reportedly numbered 318 for the teachers’ union, which has just shy of 400 members.

According to union officials, the vote was 183 votes against the agreement to 133 for it, or 58 percent to 42 percent. Two ballots were blank.

In addition to not ratifying the contract, the no vote asked members to authorize union leaders “to initiate concerted activities up to and including a strike.”

 

On Friday morning, the school district's public information officer released a short statement. 

“We are looking forward to reviewing the fact finding report and continuing to work toward a fair settlement,’’ said Kenny Klein, district spokesman.

The district made its final and best offer during the lengthy fact-finding phase of contract talks May 5.

Details of the tentative agreement were kept quiet until all union members could be briefed about the specifics during a 90-minute gathering Wednesday afternoon at Pioneer Valley High School. Voting occurred Wednesday and Thursday.

California Teachers Association and Faculty Association leaders will be conducting site meetings next week to let you know what our next steps are,” the union said in a message to members Thursday. “It is crucial from here on out that you get involved and participate in all upcoming activities.”

Teachers had sought a 6-percent pay increase, the same amount given to administrators and classified staff, union members said.

However, the tentative agreement reportedly called for pay boosts of less than 3 percent this year and 3 percent next year.

Faculty Association members repeatedly have said the disagreement is not about money, citing several other issues that include lack of classroom support and loss of the prep period.

During the meeting Wednesday afternoon, 30 to 40 people spoke, but none mentioned money, according to Mark Goodman, president of the Faculty Association.

“It’s all about the respect and who’s running the district,” he said.

Rejection of the tentative agreement comes after seven negotiation sessions, two mediation meetings and, finally, the fact-finding presentations before a three-member panel.

With the contract rejected, a member of the fact-finding panel reportedly has a 30-day window to write a report with nonbinding recommendations, and likely will ask both sides to meet again, Goodman said.

If no agreement is reached, a strike is an option, he added.

Goodman said he was surprised the tentative contract wasn’t ratified.

“We’ve done everything we can to avoid getting to this point,” he said.

During actions leading up to the fact-finding sessions, teachers had hinted that a strike was possible, carrying signs saying “Not on strike yet.”

Apparently expecting teachers to ratify the tentative pact, the school board, at the recommendation of Superintendent Mark Richardson, on Tuesday night scheduled a special meeting for early May 18 to approve the contract with the Faculty Association.

In addition to the contract, teachers also recently voted on Faculty Association leadership, electing a new president whom Goodman declined to identify. The new officer must attend training and will take over Sept. 1.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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