MILTON — The Public Employees Relations Commission tallied the votes of 295 educational support employees after three weeks of mail-in balloting. By a margin of 17 votes, 156 to 139, those supporting the Santa Rosa Education Association won.

This means the district’s 700 educational support employees have different representation from the teachers breaking an 11-year trend of both groups relying on the Santa Rosa Professional Educators union.

"Today is a new day for Santa Rosa County education support employees," SREA member and district office secretary Dawn Stone said. "I am excited to know that members, not a select few, will play an active role in decisions affecting our organization. We are thrilled to have our own contract which will be independent from the teachers."

"Santa Rosa County is a high-performing district," Stone said, "and it’s time we have a high-performing employee organization dedicated to member input with the full resources of Florida Education Association behind us."

The FEA is the state organization representing teachers’ unions. While the SREA supports the FEA, SRPE broke from the FEA in 2015 after learning the FEA planned to absorb it into a larger collective unit.

In a post on its Facebook page, the SRPE announced the vote.

"SRPE wishes our ESP bargaining unit well in its upcoming negotiations for our coworkers," the post said.