The teachers, librarians, counselors and other members of the Sequoia District Teachers Association (SDTA) will soon see a significant bump in their paychecks after the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to approve a new contract Wednesday night.
“I just wanted to take the time to extend appreciation from the bottom of my heart for teachers,” said Sequoia Union High School District Superintendent Darnise Williams. “Our agreement was reflective of the concern and support we have for each and every one of you.”
During a brief discussion, Trustees thanked the teachers for their hard work over the last year and throughout the pandemic. The vote was completed in under ten minutes.
The two-year agreement includes a salary increase of 2.5% for both the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years, with an additional 2% increase from benefits-related savings, effective Jan. 1, 2023. The SDTA, which represents 627 members, originally proposed a 4% raise for this year, with a subsequent round of discussions in the coming year.
SDTA President and Sequoia High School math teacher, Edith Salvatore, also addressed the Board before the vote was taken.
“This has been a unique round of bargaining for us,” she said during her presentation. Ultimately, she said, the proposed contract was reflective of the needs of both the district and the union—who ratified it with over 98% of the vote.
“We had a lot of talks, a lot of shared values around maintaining our benefits for our employees while helping to contain costs for the district,” she said. “Looking at ways that we can make some of those jobs more sustainable in the long run and also looking at ways that we can create time for ongoing, unified professional development, which is one of the superintendent’s goals.”
Based on up-to-date salary schedules, certificated, non-management staff, which includes many teachers, have a starting salary of $70,979, which will increase to $72,753 for the current year. Salary increases for classified and certificated management staff, as well as confidential and unrepresented employees will be commensurate with those of the SDTA.
Regarding the terms of the new contract everything that can go into effect immediately will, according to Salvatore. Union members will see the salary increase, as well as a retroactive payment dating back to summer 2021, in their March 31 paycheck.
With the spring term already underway, the contract comes later than usual. While the union’s original proposal was presented during a public school board meeting in February 2021, COVID and hiring delays put off active bargaining until October, Salvatore said.
“The tricky part, when you settle and everything happens after winter break, is that the salary increase goes on your 2022 taxes,” she said. “That’s unfortunate, but there was no way around it this year.”
Still, she told the Pulse that she was pleased with the contract, which, beyond securing a raise for members, “has a number of improvements that will help make jobs more manageable and will allow us to provide stronger services to our students.”
Committees will begin convening immediately to discuss changes to health benefits, professional development, job descriptions and workloads for counselors and other non-classroom staff, she added.
“We have some job descriptions that haven’t been updated since 1979. And I was in first grade in 1979,” said Salvatore, laughing. “So we think some things have changed since then.”