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Around 300 teachers in the Santa Maria-Bonita School District rallied outside the Souza Center in Santa Maria in May amid negotiations between the Santa Maria Elementary Education Association (SMEEA) and district. After entering an impasse, the two parties have come to an agreement on a three-year contract.

The Santa Maria-Bonita School District and its teachers union have reached tentative agreements on outstanding articles contained in their new contract, ending a weekslong impasse between the two entities.

An impasse declaration, pursued by the Santa Maria Elementary Education Association, was granted by the state Public Employee Relations board in April, following several failed attempts by the district and association to finalize their three-year contract.

Agreements on contentious articles related to salary, workday requirements, release of the association president to work full time on union matters, and the number of district nurses were finally reached on July 9, during a fourth state-mediated impasse session

"After numerous conversations and collaborative efforts, the parties were able to come to tentative agreements on the eight remaining articles for the 2020-23 Collective Bargaining Agreement," Association President Jose Segura said. 

Under the new articles, staff will receive 6% on-schedule and 1.5% off-schedule salary increases for the period of July 2020 through the 2022-23 school year. The association was granted the ability to have Segura continue working full time on union matters rather than splitting time with teaching duties, and compromised on the number of conference days — three — per year. The association was not granted its request for more district nurses. 

The agreements still must be ratified by association members in a vote, after which time they will be brought to the Santa Maria-Bonita School District Board for final approval.

"The mediator provided a solid process and perspective that was leveraged to come to agreement. I am appreciative of the commitment to the process of the teams representing the district and the teachers' association in coming to resolution," district Superintendent Luke Ontiveros said. 

Negotiations related to the contract first began in late 2019, with adjustments made along the way as the COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges to local education.

"It’s been kind of a crazy train the last 20 months. There’s still a lot of work to be done, [because] all of this requires a lot of up-front efforts," Segura said, referencing the informational videos and other content related to the agreements that need to be shared with teachers.

Two virtual town halls explaining the terms of the articles will take place July 26 and Aug. 2. 

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Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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