Sulphur Springs district acts on COVID-19 vaccine mandate, approves salary raises

Sulphur Springs Union School District administrative offices.

 Sulphur Springs Union School District parents who oppose vaccine mandates can feel a little bit more at ease as the governing board discussed its support for a resolution against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s future COVID-19-vaccination mandate.  

The Sulphur Springs district held its governing board meeting on Wednesday night to discuss and vote on various items such as the COVID-19 resolution, a tentative agreement between the Sulphur Springs District Teachers’ association and the district, and redistricting maps.  

Board members support parent choice  

“I’m going to keep it short and simple,” said Santa Rivera, whose child attends the Sulphur Springs district. “I also agree with the (resolution advocating) against vaccine mandates. That is a great idea because we do know that where there is a risk, there must be a choice.”   

Rivera was one of four mothers who addressed the board. The parents wanted the Sulphur Springs district board to pass a resolution similar to those adopted by the William S. Hart Union High School District and Newhall School District.  

The resolution would ask the governor to rescind or remove his future administrative requirement that all students K-12 be vaccinated from COVID-19 the following term once the U.S. Food and Drug Administration fully approves a COVID-19 vaccine for those age groups.  

Ken Chase, president of the governing board, said they would support a resolution and take a step further by asking more from leaders. 

“We also urge all government entities not to generate legislative regulations or orders that would create a vaccine mandate as a condition of in-person instruction and grade pay,” Chase said in regards to the additional step they would take. 

Shelly Weinstein and Denise DeFigueiredo, members of the board, said they should send the resolution to the California superintendent of public instruction, the California Assembly leader, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and other entities.  

“I would encourage those who are so desirous of continuing their efforts, but also allow diplomacy and statesmanship had its place, too,” DeFigueiredo said. “I think this resolution is a great example of the meeting of those two methods to create change.”  

All five board members indicated full support of the resolution. However, the governing board is expected to finalize its resolution and take a vote at the next board meeting on Dec. 15.  

Salary updates   

The governing board unanimously approved the tentative agreement between the Sulphur Springs District Teachers’ Association and the district. The board also extended a temporary pay raise salary schedule for substitutes and updated the salary schedule for certified and language speech specialists.  

According to the agreement, all SSDTA bargaining unit members will receive a 4% on-schedule salary increase, which is applied to all pay scale groups and levels, effective July 2021 and ending June 2024.  

“Hourly rate for work rendered outside of regular contractual work hours shall be paid at $34 an hour effective Dec. 9,” read the tentative agreement.   

The two parties also negotiated a one-time 1% off-schedule payment based on the salary schedule the board approved in 2020. The payment applies to all 2021-22 bargaining unit members employed as of Nov. 2.   

In addition, teachers will receive a stipend of $4 per student, per day for the allocation ratio of teachers to regular program pupils. The Sulphur Springs district shall not exceed 1-26 in grades TK-3, or 1-32 in grades 4-6 in each classroom at each school site, read the tentative agreement.   

According to the agenda item, the Sulphur Springs district continually monitors class size ratios. On four dates (the 25th, 70th, 115th and 160th days) during the school year, the district completes a size roster report.  

“Any teacher whose class exceeds the ratio of 1 to 32 for regular program classes, 1 to 18 for mild/moderate classes or 1 to 13 for moderate/severe classrooms on those dates will receive a stipend,” read the tentative agreement.  

The governing board also extended the substitute salary schedule until the end of February with hourly rates starting at $30 for substitutes and $31.33 for substitute special education teachers.  

Under this salary schedule, substitutes will receive $135 for half-day, $225 for a full day. Substitute special education teachers will receive $140 for half-day and $235 for a full day.  

Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Services Ardrella Hamilton encouraged the governing board to approve these salary changes. She added the new daily rates secured substitutes and other personnel when most needed. 

Redistricting map approved 

Milton Foster, a legal consultant of Fagen Freidman & Fulfrost, presented three proposed scenarios for the governing board to choose from as the final trustee area map.   

The district hired Cooperative Strategies, a consultant company dedicated to creating equitable environments for students, to help them assess census data and create scenarios for trustee-area maps.  

Trustee area No. 1 represented by Weinstein and trustee area No. 2 represented by DeFigueiredo would be less impacted in each map scenario. However, trustee areas No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5, represented by Paola Jellings, Chase and Lori MacDonald, respectively, would be altered due to a change in population.  

“The idea here was to largely keep the map the same as it was voted on previously, but adjust for the difference of the population,” Foster said. “That’s why you see the differences between them are very minute.”  

According to census data, the overall population grew more than 10.8% or approximately 6,500 people. The data also noted an increase of the Hispanic/Latino population up to 42% or more than 7,000 people. 

Ultimately, the governing board selected scenario map No. 1 as the new trustee area map. The boundaries for trustee areas No. 3 and No. 4 would slightly decrease while the boundaries for trustee areas No. 2 and No. 5 would slightly increase.  

“Even though you’re being elected from those areas, you’re still representing like-minded schools,” Weinstein said.  “We have to remember that you don’t give any preference to one school over another. You always represent all of them, always.”  

In 2014, the Sulphur Springs district transitioned to a by-trustee-area election system to ensure compliance with the California Voting Rights Act. Following each federal census, the governing board must approve adjustments of trustee area boundaries to ensure the population in each area is nearly equal.  

The governing board received little public feedback and concluded that portion of the redistricting process.   

The Sulphur Springs district has to send its resolution, the final trustee area plan they adopted and any additional required documents to the County Committee on School District Organization and Registrar of Voters to complete the redistricting process required by state law.  

The next governing board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 15, at 7 p.m. 

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