Non-Teaching Employees Reject Merit System for Santa Maria-Bonita School District | School zone
Classified employees, including maintenance staff, secretaries and other non-teaching workers, in the Santa Maria-Bonita school district have rejected a proposal to move to a merit system for personnel matters.
The announcement of last week’s election results came at the district school board meeting on Wednesday evening.
Members of Chapter 129 of the California School Employees Association were asked if they wanted to switch to the merit system for personnel matters.
Of the 337 votes cast, 262, or 77%, were against the change, while 74, or 23%, voted yes. One vote was declared void.
“As there was no majority of votes in favor of the merit system, the merit system will not be applicable to the Santa Maria-Bonita school district,” said Helen Avedikian, human resources coordinator.
Union representatives have touted the merit system as ensuring fairness, efficiency and impartiality in the hiring and promotion of employees.
Last week, two information sessions were held at the Souza Student Support Center for the approximately 1,000 classified employees. Classified confidential employees and classified executives were also eligible to vote on the issue.
A member complained that the current hiring system appeared to be based on a candidate’s knowledge, saying she was screened out for a job with a less qualified person.
Still, the idea that employees had to take a test to be on the job change list prompted another member to note that he and others suffered from test anxiety.
Under the merit system, applicants would be required to take written and oral tests to be on an applicant eligibility list. The top three candidates from this list would be interviewed for the vacant position.
Neither the union nor the district would have managed the merit system since it would operate independently.
Instead of district staff, a 3-member staff committee would have handled the hiring, promotion, transfer and reclassification of all classified employees.
The district and union would each appoint a personnel commissioner, and the couple would appoint a third member. They reportedly hired a personnel manager.
Currently, these tasks are managed by Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Patty Grady and her staff.
Grady said she was surprised at the number of CSEA employees who voted to maintain the status quo and reject the merit system.
“However, I will not turn a deaf ear to the concerns that have been raised because I think things legitimately need to be looked at. They’ve come forward for a reason, so let’s look at those concerns and work on them together as a team, ”Grady said.
Before the results were revealed, Matthew Harris, president of CSEA Chapter 129, said the union had worked for two years to put the issue to a vote.
“I think the system broke and we had to put in that effort,” Harris said.
In the two years, the district made no effort to work with the union or avoid the vote, he said.
Harris said the union filed three grievances against the district on Wednesday, with another due on Thursday.
The chapter president said he would like the district to implement certain aspects of the merit system, such as binding arbitration and some principles of the merit system.
“I hope we don’t have to relive this,” he said, adding that he had met Superintendent Luke Ontiveros earlier on Wednesday. “In the future, we have to solve this problem.”
At the end of Wednesday’s meeting, Ontiveros said he and Harris had a good conversation.
“I want to point out something that has been said – it’s an ‘us’ thing,” Ontiveros said. “We have to work on this. Taking singular problems and pointing out that singular problems are systemic problems is not very constructive.
“I can’t wait to work on this because we all owe it to these wonderful little kids who were here tonight – the preschoolers in the Class of 2031,” he added.