The Orcutt Union School District and Orcutt Educators Association have reached an agreement in contract negotiations, ending five months of talks and the assistance of a state-appointed mediator.

"With the help of the state-appointed mediator, the district and Orcutt Educators Association came together to put kids first," Orcutt Union Superintendent Deborah Blow said in a statement. "We are pleased with the positive agreement reached in mediation. I firmly believe this agreement is in everyone’s best interest, including our teachers, classified and administrative staffs, and, most importantly, our students."

Approximately 93.6 percent of union members agreed to the terms of the contract, which maintains an average class size of 27 to 1 and report card days — periods of instruction where teachers may get a substitute teacher while they work in class to grade and plan — for TK-6 teachers, according to Monique Segura, president of the union. The agreement also includes a one-time payment of $1,280 for the current school year and $1,500 payment for the 2018-19 school year for members below the 15th step of the salary schedule.

The agreement also includes a $1,000 stipend for the Elementary Student Council and extension of the district's early retirement option, Segura said. Language regarding health benefits, child bonding and signing bonuses for new hires with specific credentials was also included in the agreement.

"Mediation went really well — I think both sides worked hard to come to consensus on some items," Segura said. "We’re very pleased with the tentative agreement and I’m hopeful that everything will move along."

Negotiations began last October before stalling at the end of November. An impasse was declared and filed with the Public Employee Relations Board, which appointed a state mediator to help both sides reach an agreement. 

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In December, the district offered teachers a half-percent increase to their salary schedule and one-time payment of $640 to all full-time teachers should they agree to forgo six report card days. A mutually agreed-upon increase to the average class size, from 27 to 29, was also being sought. The union rejected the December offer, leading to the impasse.

Blow said the agreement allows the district to maintain fiscal solvency, a concern given looming increase to employer contributions for the California State Teachers' Retirement System. Financial data provided by the district indicates it is liable for $4.4 million in payments to the retirement systems in 2017 — a $470,000 increase compared to 2016.

The terms of the agreement will expire at the end of the 2019-20 school year. Mediation resulted in successful contract negotiations in 2015 and 2016.

Mathew Burciaga covers education in Santa Maria and the surrounding area for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @math_burciaga

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Education Reporter

Santa Maria Times reporter Mathew Burciaga covers education for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.