Education

Lucia Mar Unified teachers ratify contract with school district

Teachers from Ocean View Elementary School in Arroyo Grande hold signs calling for a new contract agreement with the Lucia Mar school district during a rally in March 2015.
Teachers from Ocean View Elementary School in Arroyo Grande hold signs calling for a new contract agreement with the Lucia Mar school district during a rally in March 2015. sprovost@thetribunenews.com

Members of the Lucia Mar Unified teachers union ratified a contract with the school district this week, officially ending the chance of a strike while also signaling substantial dissatisfaction with the district.

The Lucia Mar Unified School District and its teachers union, the Lucia Mar Unified Teachers Association, reached a tentative contract agreement last week that would give teachers a 6 percent raise over two years.

Fifty-nine percent of the union members voted in favor of the agreement and 41 percent voted against, with 92 percent of membership voting, union president Donna Kandel said Thursday evening. Kandel said the large minority opposing the contract agreement was significant.

“Our membership clearly understood that while being a small step forward, this settlement fell short of closing the salary gap and was less than the district could or should afford,” Kandel said in a statement.

“They also knew that Superintendent (Jim) Hogeboom and the Board's misplaced priorities were unlikely to change significantly through a strike. While a strike was always a last resort option, and one supported by many of our members, teachers felt it was better for students and the community to move forward with this modest gain.”

The tentative agreement is for a 3 percent pay raise to start April 1 and another 3 percent in January 2016 — compared with a 2 percent pay increase the district offered through most of the bargaining process, and the 10 percent the union proposed.

"I am pleased that the teachers’ union members voted to ratify the tentative agreement,” Hogeboom said following the vote. “This is a positive step forward for our students and school community.”

The agreement will now go to the district’s board of trustees at one of its meetings in May. The board is expected to approve the contract.

In the meantime, the district’s classified employees are waiting anxiously to see how the teachers union negotiations will affect their new contract.

The classified employees union reached a tentative agreement with the district in January for a 2.5 percent pay raise retroactive to July 1, the start of the 2014-15 fiscal year. The agreement was approved by district trustees in March, and classified employees began seeing the pay increase in their April paychecks.

The classified employees’ contract stipulates, however, that if the teachers union gets more than a 2.5 percent raise for the school year, the classified employees will receive that same percentage pay increase.

Because the most recent offer was not retroactive for the entire school year, Hogeboom said the district and the classified union representatives will meet again in May or June to discuss how to apply the difference so that both unions receive similar pay increases.

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