MILTON — Educators of Santa Rosa County have something to celebrate this holiday season thanks to the efforts of the teachers' union — the Santa Rosa Professional Educators — and the Santa Rosa County School Board.

SRPE is a professional organizational union for county educators. The organization acts as a bargaining agent between the school board and the educators.

On Nov. 15 SRPE and the school board ratified a master contract for teachers of the county. The school board has approved a 4.33 percent salary increase for all instructional personnel in the county — the highest increase since 2009, according to SRPE. The contract passed with 97 percent approval.

“Through the extensive efforts of Pace High School math teacher David Godwin, the exchanges from both sides proved to be extremely successful this negotiation year,” SRPE president Rhonda Chavers said. “This was the best bargaining year in 10 years and SRPE’s bargaining team would like it noted that this is how annual collective bargaining should be conducted.”

According to David Gunter, Director of Labor Relations and Compliance with the school district, the finance department is diligently working to issue the retro checks and increases to teachers as soon as possible.

“We hope to be given a timeline soon regarding the payment schedule,” the SRPE office said.

Santa Rosa County currently has 15 elementary schools, seven middle schools, and six high schools, as well as a number of specialized centers with a total of 2,035 teachers. A superintendent administers the district with a five-member school board.