Local teachers took to the streets earlier this summer to show unity over pay negotiations. Photo by John Chadwell.

Diviana Navarro is a BenitoLink Intern Staff Reporter.

Hollister schools are back in session and with that teachers will return to school with a pay increase after intense negotiations with district administration.

“It tells teachers that they are valued and appreciated for their work,” said 8th grade teacher Kathi Sharp.

The Hollister Elementary School Teachers Association (HESTA) and the Hollister School District Board of Trustees agreed in late June to a retroactive pay hike for elementary and middle school teachers based on 1 percent of salary going back to July 2017 and 2 percent of salary going back to January 2018. Going forward, they also agreed to a 3 percent pay raise effective at the start of the new school year.

“Was it an easy negotiation? It was some back and forth,” said Jan Grist, lead negotiator for HESTA. Now retired, Grist said, “The reality is that the district had to realize that they could not continue to just offer zero pay raise. That’s not negotiating.”

The trustees approved the deal with a 4-1 vote. Trustee Peter Hernandez cast the opposing vote, saying that he thought long and hard about it and framed his decision behind the need for stability.

“We’re talking about giving a raise without even talking about putting money away,” Hernandez said. As a Hollister native, Hernandez said he is passionate about his community and simply wants to pave the way for future generations by preserving resources today.

Trustee Rob Bernosky said he voted for the raise because of his personal connection with teachers.

“With a family of educators, the issue of compensation is very near and dear to me,” he said. “I’m very glad that we finally came to closure with the union.”

Despite these efforts to increase pay, there is a high demand for teachers in the district. Out of 43 open positions at the end of this past school year, only half were filled by late July, according to Hollister School District Union President Angela Higgins.

Asked about the pay raise, Higgins said, “We’re hoping it might encourage people to come and work here.”

That encouragement comes with emergency credentials for those who don’t yet have teaching credentials but can accept full-time positions.

“Hopefully they can hold down a classroom,” said Higgins, smiling.

Editor’s Note: The article was updated at 2:30 p.m. Aug. 22, 2018.