The Solana Beach School District and certificated and classified teachers’ unions were able to come together on a new collective bargaining agreement, to be ratified at a special board meeting on March 20. The agreement came after some tension-filled school board meetings and “some negativity, complaining and probably even some gnashing of teeth” over the last few months as both sides worked hard to bridge an impasse in negotiations.
The Solana Beach Teachers Association and the district agreed to a 4 percent salary increase retroactive to July 1, 2017 for 2017-18 and a 4 percent salary increase for 2018-19.
The Solana Beach Association of Support Professionals and the district agreed to a 4 percent salary for 2017-18 and a 3.25 percent salary increase effective July 1, 2018 for 2018-19. Additionally, effective July 1, classified staff will also see a new longevity salary schedule increase.
The teachers had been asking for a 5 percent salary increase to keep pace with the cost of living and for the district to contribute more to the rising cost of healthcare. The agreement included no change in benefits.
“I’ve always been very vocal about the fact that I think our teachers should be paid as much as possible,” said board member Richard Lieb at the board’s March 8 meeting. “It is a fair deal and I’m very excited that both sides came to the realization that a compromise, which I think was a very good compromise, was the right way to go.”
Both teachers in attendance and members of the school board took the time to acknowledge the hard work of the negotiations teams on both sides. Neva Ayn Magalnick, a Solana Highlands Elementary School teacher and member of the bargaining team, said there was some “intense pressure,” angst and a lot of sleepless nights in the negotiations, but both sides were able to work together as a team and reach a fair contract.
“School board, thank you so much for negotiating, thank you for compromising,” Magalnick said. “Membership agreed to this contract not because we’re tired, not because we’re fed up. I do believe and know that there was an effort on the part of the board to hear our voices and to show respect even under trying circumstances.”
Solana Beach Association of Support Professionals Vice President Lisa Burkle echoed her appreciation for everyone at the negotiating table as she said after every session, their members also expressed that they felt respected. She said the collective bargaining process was quite the new experience for the classified employees, who unionized in 2016.
“I realize sometimes change can be scary but change also means growth. Some may say unionizing classified staff was not a good idea but I disagree,” Burkle said. “Where we once felt invisible and not heard, we now have a voice. Where we once barely knew each other, we have made friendships and have inspired and supported each other to do our jobs better. And as a result this transition has actually made the Solana Beach School District a more cohesive team in how we teach and support our students.”
In response to Burkle’s comments, Lieb said his opinion on the classified teachers unionizing radically changed during the collective bargaining process.
“I think the classified union was actually a very good thing. I wasn’t against it at first but I wasn’t sure it was necessary. But I found that during the negotiations there were a lot of things that got focused on that really helped. I think it all came out better because of the classified having their own voice,” Lieb said.
Clerk Holly Lewry agreed that some really important points and articles were established that will be beneficial in the future.
In her comments, board member Vicki King thanked the negotiating teams for their patience, time and effort.
“It’s been a long haul, we all know that. It was very gratifying to hear from both teams that everyone feels the same way. I’m very excited that we came to a resolution,” King said.
King said she’s been in the district for 18 years and on the board for 12 years and one of the things that keeps her active on the board is the district’s culture of trust and respect for collaboration.
“Moving forward it’s my hope that we continue with this culture and I look forward to working with everybody on issues that we all care about,” King said.