Santa Rosa school district, teachers reach tentative contract agreement

Members of the Santa Rosa Teachers Association stage a protest on Sept. 4, 2017 while seeking a new contract. (SRTA Facebook page)


After more than a year working without a contract, Santa Rosa City Schools teachers this week reached a tentative agreement with the district.

The deal calls for a combined 1.5 percent salary increase over the next two years, plus a one-time 0.5 percent bonus, retroactive for the 2016-17 school year. Under the plan, teachers would also receive a total of $1,000 toward medical benefits and get to keep three days of paid training, said Will Lyon, president of the Santa Rosa Teachers Association, which represents nearly 1,000 educators.

In return, teachers must agree to continue supervising dances, sports events and other activities for up to 34 hours a year without pay, Lyon said. That equals about five workdays, he said.

Teachers are expected to vote on the contract next month. Lyon said they need a simple majority to approve the contract.

“This is going to be a tough deal for our members to accept,” Lyon said Friday. “It’s not enough on the compensation side.”

The union represents teachers who work in Sonoma County’s largest school district, educating 16,400 students in 25 schools. Annual salaries started at $47,513 and topped out at $89,845 in the 2015-16 school year, the last time teachers received a pay raise.

If approved by both sides, the contract would cost the district $3.2 million over three years, according to the union. It had sought a package that would have cost $4.9 million over the same period.

The union initially sought a 3 percent salary hike and $5,000 toward medical benefits. However, the district came back earlier this year with a one-day reduction in paid training, which equaled a 0.5 percent salary decrease, Lyon said.

Teachers ramped up their efforts the past few weeks, pressuring the school district for a better deal. They picketed outside a school board meeting, handed out leaflets near schools and marched to the district office.

The union argued the school district is losing young teachers to neighboring districts that offer more competitive salaries and medical benefits. While it likely won’t solve the problem of young teachers leaving, Lyon called the deal a “baby step in the right direction.” He and Jason Lea, assistant superintendent of human resources, acknowledged in a joint letter that teachers’ health care benefits need more improvements.

“SRCS knows we need to continue to improve health benefits for our teachers as result of a decision made by the union many years ago to move the dollars for benefits to the salary schedule. This agreement is the next step in that process,” Lea said.

The union first approached the district about a new contract in January 2016. Talks reached an impasse last March and the two sides began mediation sessions in April.

It took 25 hours over the course of two days this week to hash out a tentative agreement, Lyon said. It still needs to be approved by the school board.

“The school board has been informed throughout the negotiations process and will honor the agreement that was mediated by a state-appointed (official),” Lea said in an email.

Lyon said he and other union leaders felt it was the best the district could do. In addition to the pay increase, he said the district also agreed to form a committee to review class sizes and workloads for special education teachers.

“Our leadership feels like this is the best compensation we’re going to get at this time,” he said. “They don’t have more money to offer us.”