Fresno, Calif - After 18 months of contract negotiations, teachers who work for the Fresno Unified School District finally got to vote on whether or not to accept the new contract put together by their union and employer.
Teachers cast their vote Monday at the Fresno Fairgrounds, but the votes won't be counted until Tuesday.
"After today I feel like we are going to have a lot of momentum," said Catrina Duncan, a member of the Fresno Teachers Association.
"I'm really happy to be able to get back to focusing on what our students need, and providing them the best education possible," said Benjamin Tenpas, teacher.
The Fresno Teachers Association represents nearly 4,000 educators.
Members who voted received a ballot, heard an explanation about what the contract means, then began to cast their votes.
Negotiations Chair of the union and Teacher for the district Jon Bath said the contract includes many changes important to their constituents: more pay, smaller class sizes and giving teachers a stronger voice when it comes to crafting policies about school safety, discipline and new curriculums.
"Teachers want to be heard, and teachers felt that they were not heard. When this process started we had a different superintendent, but now we have a new superintendent, and so, as far as communication we are seeing better days ahead," said Bath.
Superintendent Bob Nelson agrees.
He hopes both sides will ratify the contract so the union and the district can put a new foot forward.
Nelson wants to build a strong relationship with the union to better serve the 74,000 students who depend on the two to put their interests first.
"In the end it took some measure of placing egos aside and to focus on what was our collective best interest. We are a family good, bad or otherwise we need to collaborate together in order to work meaningfully on behalf of our kids," said Nelson.
If the majority of the teachers approve the new contract, the district's school board will also vote to approve the contract, Wednesday.
Both parties have to have a majority vote or the contract will not be ratified and everyone will have to go back to the drawing board.