Teachers and staff within the San Marcos school district have been vocal about increasing salaries and improving health care benefits for quite a while.
Monday night, the school board responded in a big way.
"It's amazing. It's the biggest thing that's been done in our district in a long time for our employees,” San Marcos Educators Association President Susan Seaton said.
School board members voted to increase teacher salaries by 3.8 percent. The original request for a 5 percent raise will apply to auxiliary staff on an hourly pay base. In addition, administrators will see a 2.5 percent raise in their yearly wages.
“Five percent would have been great and that's what we were shooting for, but this is the next best option that helps us partner with the district to be fiscally responsible and to live within our means,” Seaton said.
Teachers and staff packed into the meeting, nervously awaiting the decision. For some, it's been an emotional fight to gain recognition for their dedication.
"We all work hard, and we do tutorials. We do after-school tutorials, Saturday school and it makes a difference. I know it makes a difference, and that's what's important. It's a good feeling,” Connie Martin, a teacher in the district, said.
Advocates for a salary increase argued that without it, the district would lose its best teachers to surrounding districts, which pay more.
"We want to retain those great teachers that we have so we can keep them working for us and not for other districts,” school board President Kathy Hensen said. “We don’t want to train them and send them off somewhere else. We want to train them and keep them here, so I think it will make a difference for those teachers."
Another big difference: health care costs. The board voted to fully fund insurance premiums for the base plan. That translates into more than $100 in savings each month.
"Even if our board doesn’t know it, they changed people's lives tonight,” Seaton said. “By taking this bold step and really kind of showing the employees what they're worth, they've made a change in the lives of all 1,200 district employees."
San Marcos CISD was the only school district that made employees pay the premium cost for the basic health care plan. Teachers and staff previously paid $88 dollars a month until a $2,500 deductible was met. Now, the district will pay for that monthly cost.