San Marcos High School ~ Santa Barbara, CA

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SBUnified Teachers Rally at School Board Meeting

Kian Strenn
SBUnified teachers spoke at the School Board Meeting last night on November 14, advocating for fair contracts.

On November 14, 2023, hundreds of teachers showed up to a public hearing that discussed negotiations for creating a contract between SBUnified teachers and the district. With signs, bells, and cheers of support, over 30 commentators, including teachers, students, and parents from across the district, presented 90-second arguments supporting the cause and the start of negotiations. This time constraint annoyed certain speakers as they continued past the given time. 

Leo Borden, a Santa Barbara Junior High School teacher, said, “Is someone calling time when teachers open their rooms to provide a safe warm caring environment for their students?” 

Alongside Borden, multiple speakers throughout the night addressed the issue of how much additional time teachers have to spend outside of their paid hours. This is one of the main considerations when opening up the contract for negotiations on November 15. 

One of the speakers, teacher York Shingle, said, “6.7 million dollars, class did you hear that? I think you did. That’s the amount that you [the district] owe teachers…and ya’ll can’t even meet the state minimum to pay us.” 

The state minimum for teacher salary in California is 55% of the district budget. SBUnified has been hitting that minimum for many years. When the pandemic happened the district received additional funds that were spent on transportation. These funds led to a decrease in the percentage of the salaries when compared to the total budget. To combat this, the district submitted a waiver to the state which caused the need for negotiations.

A large banner that has all union teachers faces, and list of requests (Kian Stenn)

San Marcos Student Board Representative, Kian Strenn said, “One of the main reasons we are having such a huge disagreement between the board and the teachers is that they are seeing each other as numbers, as salaries, as dispensable. I feel like if we just instead used kindness and realized that at the end of the day, we are just humans and just want to be happy and respected, that a lot of this would get better and they could start being on the same team again.”

This issue has greater impacts in cities like Santa Barbara where the cost of living greatly exceeds the average income of teachers. The teaching career has already experienced heavy loss post-pandemic with many educators filing their resignations. Over 100 teachers left the SBUnified District in the past year, mainly due to the inability to afford living in this area. 

At the board meeting, San Marcos chemistry teacher Sammi Lambert said, “My students deserve to thrive in their high school community in which they don’t have to get to know new teachers, their trusted adults every year.” 

Mr. Leland, the San Marcos woodshop teacher highlighted the inability of the district to hire teachers. He said at the meeting, “This semester I filled in for more than two weeks as a co-taught SPED class for a position they couldn’t fill.”

To ensure fair pay and working conditions, teachers around the country unionize. The teacher union in Santa Barbara is a 611-member association called SBTA (Santa Barbara Teacher’s Association) which is a chapter of CTA (California Teacher’s Association), which is a part of NEA (National Educator’s Association). 

The School Board Meeting room overflowed with teachers, students, and parents in support. (Kian Strenn)

Our school librarian, Amy McMillan, is the SBTA representative for San Marcos and said, “SBTA has a 21-point platform that outlines what we believe students deserve in our schools.” 

This platform encompasses the wishes of the teachers for the district to follow. Most of the points focus on the importance of offering a competitive salary schedule, prioritizing an affordable healthcare package, and ensuring educators who work more calendar days are fairly compensated. The argument behind these requests is that it is better for students if educators can afford to live in Santa Barbara. This contract would be for teachers across the district from 2024 until 2027.

Ms. McMillan also said, “Teachers care very much about their jobs. They enter the profession because they love students.”

On November 15, the negotiations between the SBUnified District and the SBTA will determine the future of teachers in Santa Barbara schools. More information will be coming in the following days. 


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About the Contributor
Avital Abramov
Avital Abramov, Copy Editor
Avital is a 12th grader at San Marcos High School. She has been a guest writer for the King’s Page since the spring of her sophomore year and is now a Copy Editor. She enjoyed writing about social justice issues and news from around the world. Her favorite subject in school is History. She enjoys time spent at the beach and with friends.
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