Interest money

More money, better class sizes and more benefits highlight Sonoma Valley teachers’ new contract

The mood at the start of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District board meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 15 was decidedly upbeat as teachers, staff, parents, community residents and board members expressed their support for a tentative agreement between the district and Valley of the Moon Teachers Association on salary increases and other issues after several months of negotiations.

It provides an 8% pay increase for secondary and elementary school teachers, librarians and counselors, retroactive to July 1, 2002, with an additional 6% increase to take effect July 1, 2023. Members of the VMTA have until Friday, Nov. 1, 2023. 18, to vote on the deal. If approved, it will then need to be ratified by the SVUSD Board of Directors.

“The biggest tax impact of the deal is, of course, the increases,” said Josh Braff, chief commercial officer of SVUSD. “The 8% and 6% wage increases are something the district can afford, something we have worked very, very hard to be able to afford. We are very happy to be able to offer them.

The amount of wage increases was the main focus — and sticking point — during negotiations, but the tentative agreement contains several additional provisions, including the following.

• Certified employees will be required to work 186 days per school year, instead of the current 187 days.

• Employees will receive a $450 allowance for vision care, instead of the current allowance of $350.

• The maximum number of pupils in primary classes will be reduced from seven to five above the class limit for each level.

• Four salary increments will be eliminated for salary increases for secondary and elementary school teachers, librarians and counsellors. “So they’ll see an increase sooner, rather than having to wait a few years to see that increase,” Braff said.

• Psychologists and speech-language pathologists may request to work remotely for up to five days per academic year when an immediate family member is ill and they need to care for them. These employees will still be required to provide uninterrupted services to students. “This will hopefully allow us to attract and retain psychologists and speech pathologists,” Braff said.

• A joint statement on maintaining public safety that applies to all SVUSD campuses has been created: “The District and the Association agree that it is in the interest of all parties to provide safe and secure campuses. safe for students, staff and the community. The district and the association are jointly committed to maintaining a safe workplace for students and staff. The district and association encourage positive communication and discourage actions that interfere with a positive educational environment. »

• Beginning with the 2022-23 school year, bargaining unit representatives will meet every two years in September to develop and complete schedules by November 1 for the following two school years.

During the public comment period, Sonoma Valley High School, former school administrator Helen Marsh and others praised the efforts of the negotiating teams to reach the agreement, but expressed concern about the time the process took.

“I want to congratulate everyone who brought this [agreement] to bear fruit,” Marsh said. “But I don’t know why it took so long. It’s a monumental waste of time. If there had been more transparency and honesty, it would have been done much faster and we would not have spent so much social and political capital.

Peter Hansen, video arts teacher at Sonoma Valley High School, added: “Imagine if we took all the energy from the past week, bottled it up and put it into our students – wow!” he said. “But a lot of good can come from this deal, if it goes through. It would attract new teachers who can afford to live here and retain experienced teachers who can help them. That’s a beautiful thing.

Administrator Troy Knox responded to these public comments.

“I think it’s an important day and an important time to celebrate,” he said. “I know you’ve all worked very hard and spent many hours to get to this moment, but I want to capture what was mentioned in the public comments about it not having to be as difficult or painful, or in some cases hurtful.

“One of the things that’s going to stick with me for a while is the fact that there is a level of mistrust, and if we can’t let go of that, we have to address it,” he said. “If we can’t trust each other, it’s going to make our job a lot harder and it’s going to hurt our students for years to come. I ask our teams to consider other negotiation and problem-solving options.

Contact the reporter, Dan Johnson, at [email protected].