HDTA ratifies contract; governing board, county still need to approve 

The sign in front of the William S. Hart Union High School District administrative office. Katherine Quezada/The Signal
The sign in front of the William S. Hart Union High School District administrative office. Katherine Quezada/The Signal

After months of negotiations, the Hart District Teachers Association has ratified its new contract with the William S. Hart Union High School District. 

The contract now needs ratification by the district’s governing board and the Los Angeles County Office of Education before it can officially go into effect. The next governing board meeting is set for April 17. 

John Minkus, president of HDTA, said in a phone interview on Friday that it took longer than anticipated to strike an agreement with the district, but he’s glad that one was finally reached. 

“I just want to say thank you to all the people who worked so hard to get us to a point where we could achieve a settlement,” Minkus said. 

The district on Friday declined to comment on the union’s ratification of the tentative agreement, according to Debbie Dunn, communications manager for the district. Superintendent Mike Kuhlman said in a statement following the announcement of the tentative agreement that “our incredible teachers are united and have made persuasive arguments about our need to continue striving to recognize their outstanding work.” 

The terms of the agreement, according to Minkus, call for a 2% salary increase and a 2% one-time payment for all teachers. The ratification was sealed with 58% of the votes cast, and 90% of the membership cast a vote. 

“That’s the closest I’ve ever seen in my 26 years in the district,” Minkus said. 

Negotiations began last summer when the previous contract expired, leading to months of negotiating sessions that saw HDTA drop its original demand of the entirety of the 8.22% cost-of-living adjustment that the district received from the state over time. After the district’s governing board approved a fiscal stabilization plan in January that included approximately $43 million in reduced expenditures, followed by approval of the second interim financial report earlier this month, the two sides reached a tentative agreement. 

“Most importantly is that they moved away from zero (salary increase),” Minkus said. “From my point of view, as an individual and as the president of the union, it’s unacceptable for the district to offer us zero when they get a significant COLA … It really was the principle of the matter first, that zero can’t happen.” 

The fiscal stabilization plan also includes layoffs for 61 certified positions and 29.14 full-time equivalent classified positions, though district staff have expressed hope that those numbers could be reduced through retirements and other means of voluntary leave. 

Minkus is happy that those teachers who received layoff notices will get a slight adjustment to their salaries for this year, but knows that it won’t mean much if they don’t have a job next year. 

“They’re going to get the retroactive check for the ongoing and they’re going to get the 2% off-schedule,” Minkus said, “but of course, if somebody’s not employed, they won’t get it (next year).” 

While 58% of the voting membership chose to ratify the tentative agreement, 42% did not want it. Minkus said that while the deal is not what the union initially wanted, it was what the district was willing to offer to avoid an impasse. He added that the large number of teachers who participated — more than 800 of them rallied outside the district office prior to a governing board meeting earlier this month — was a reassuring sign. 

“The number of people at the last rally and the fact that we had about 90% vote shows people care,” Minkus said. 

Minkus and other HDTA representatives won’t have much time to celebrate before getting ready to negotiate for another new contract for the 2024-25 school year. Minkus said one of the focuses for the next contract would be protecting special education, which the state is providing less money for in the near future while federal mandates call for the district to provide those students with the proper resources. 

“We’re looking at a dynamic, special education, that’s changing, and our goal is always to have our contract represent what is actually going on in the classrooms and across the district,” Minkus said. “And at this point, special ed has federal mandates that are forcing changes in our district, which are changing the working conditions for our people, which makes it a negotiable item.” 

But for now, Minkus will let the good news roll into next week’s spring break. 

“It’s a relief for us all,” Minkus said. “It just created a huge amount of tension in the air and it’s nice that we have a spring break for everybody to reset.” 

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