Under a tentative deal struck this morning, Sweetwater teachers will trade larger student-to-teacher ratios for the promise not to cut salaries or give newly hired employees a different set of benefits than current employees.

The two sides had grappled over a contract since last June. Tensions had escalated in the South Bay district, with teachers cutting back on work beyond the school day, toting signs to protest and even calling for the ouster of Superintendent Jesus Gandara.

The agreement was reached around 12:30 a.m. today after a full day of bargaining in front of a “fact-finding” panel, a stage of bargaining that followed months of unsuccessful meetings. According to a press release from the school district, the agreement includes:

  • Staffing ratios of 30 students per teacher for this year, which have already been in place, compared to 28-to-one last year. That ratio will grow to 31-to-one for the next three school years.
  • No salary cuts for the next two school years.
  • Taking a controversial schedule from Montgomery High School out of the teachers contract. The school district had ended that schedule this year without negotiating, spurring the union to file legal charges that it had violated the contract. Sweetwater spokeswoman Lillian Leopold said that the union is now withdrawing those and other legal charges against the school district for failing to bargain. The two sides will create a committee of administrators and teachers to study schedules for Montgomery.
  • An increase in the number of “student contacts” — the number of students a teacher interacts with — from 176 to 182 for the next three years.
  • New hires will continue to get the same benefits that current employees do. The school district had earlier proposed giving a leaner set of benefits for new hires.

Teachers union President Alex Anguiano could not be reached this morning for comment. Anguiano posted a message on the Sweetwater Education Association website this morning announcing that its board would meet on Monday to review the tentative agreement and set a date for members to ratify the deal.

School board President Jim Cartmill called it “a mutually beneficial agreement” that would allow Sweetwater to handle budget cuts without layoffs or salary cuts. The higher ratios could be offset through retirements and not hiring more new teachers, he said.

Correction: The original version of this post stated that the agreement included no salary cuts for the next three school years. The error was due to a misunderstanding; the agreement covers last year and the next two years.

EMILY ALPERT

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