Negotiations between the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District and its Faculty Association remain stalled despite mediation attempts, setting the stage for a three-person panel to try to end the stalemate.

Both sides announced this week that the second meeting to resolve negotiations ended without an agreement, despite the presence of a state Public Employment Relations Board mediator.

The mediator agreed to certify the dispute, moving it to the fact-finding stage during which an independent panel will make a non-binding recommendation.

“The district team did not come to do any bargaining,” asserted Association President Mark Goodman. “In the end, their demands were no different than they were before mediation. It is clear the Board of Trustees do not want to listen to teachers.” 

An impasse was declared earlier, pushing the dispute into mediation in hopes of reaching an agreement.

“We look forward to working with the fact-finding panel and resolving these issues for our students, staff and community,’’ Superintendent Dr. Mark Richardson said.

In this next phase, a three-judge panel will preside over the fact-finding hearing, with each side picking one member. A third neutral judge will be chosen by both sides.

Each side will get an opportunity to make a presentation to the panel during a hearing set to be held in Santa Maria within four to six weeks.

After listening to presentations from both sides, the panel then would make a recommendation, which becomes the basis of a negotiated settlement. 

District officials say the Faculty Association sought a raise of more than 18 percent in December, and more than 12 percent in January.

The district has offered a raise of 3.5 percent for the current school year, while pledging to reopen negotiations for wages in the 2016-17 school year as budgets are established this summer.

Yet, Faculty Association representatives said the district issued a notice that it was refusing to bargain one of the key issues in the conflict – the election of department chairs at area high schools. 

Currently, teachers elect department chairs to represent them, the union said.

However, the district is demanding to let site principals appoint faculty to serve as department chairs, the Faculty Association contends.

“This is another example of the School Board ignoring teachers,” Goodman said. “They disrespect us the same way they disrespected parents who complained about holding all of the graduations at the same time.” 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

A stylized hawk's head on a red background

Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at