This week, negotiators from the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Faculty Association and the district will meet to continue bargaining the contract for the 2013-14 school year. As a resident of the district, there are some things the members of the faculty think you should know.
Last fall, the Faculty Association arranged for a training in interest-based bargaining for the association and district. Often called win/win bargaining, this is the approach the association and district turned to following the long strike in the 1990s to improve the relationship.
For years, this approach served the district and its teachers well. Over time, many administrators have come and gone, and the association sought to bring that positive process back.
The administration apparently had other plans. In July, without notice to the association, the district removed building principals from its bargaining team and hired a professional negotiator, someone with no personal stake or relationship in the district, to run the negotiations. He brought a new proposal, pages and pages of wholesale changes to the teachers’ contract.
One of the most troubling proposals is an outright elimination of the district’s longstanding 28-1 hiring ratio — a guarantee that for every 28 students, one teacher will be employed. For teachers and students, this is not as good as a hard cap on class sizes — something we would certainly want — but it does ensure classes don’t get too large, while allowing the district the flexibility to have some classes larger than others.
During the worst of the economic downturn of the past few years, the district and association have been able to preserve this language. Now, as the economy improves, the district has proposed eliminating this language completely, and without explanation.
No explanation is really required. There is only one reason the district could have for eliminating the language, because there is only one thing the district could do without the language that it can’t do now. That one thing is to hire fewer teachers, which can only mean raising class sizes.
There is much more to the proposal that should be troubling to residents of the district, more than can be told in this space. I encourage every concerned parent to contact school board members and administrators to ask about the district’s proposal, why they hope to eliminate the hiring ratio, and why they have abandoned interest-based bargaining.
As the Faculty Association bargaining team returns to the table this week, we will continue to work for an agreement that keeps the needs of students in mind as we maintain a productive and respectful working environment for Santa Maria teachers.