Teachers, counselors, parents striking outside schools
The first teachers strike ever at New Haven Unified’s schools in Union City and South Hayward appears headed for a second day Tuesday with no talks scheduled to end the stalemate.
Almost 600 teachers, counselors and nurses represented by the New Haven Teachers Association started to picket outside their schools around 7 a.m. Monday, some joined by supportive parents and students.
The district said about 20 percent of all students showed up for classes Monday. At James Logan High School in Union City, fewer than 15 percent of the approximately 3,600 students attended, according to district spokesman John Mattos.
District administrators are basically running the schools’ enrichment programs, along with some substitutes. Students who don’t show up during the strike won’t be penalized, the district said.
Logan senior Kayla Dacanay, 18, came to class to see what was happening, but said “it wasn’t much.”
Many Logan students started the morning in the campus pavilion building and watched “Inside Out,” a 2015 animated Pixar film, Dacanay said. “Most students started leaving early, after the movie ended. I think they got bored.”
The strike is the first in the district’s 50-plus years of existence, sparked by what union officials contend is a shift by district leadership away from a precedent of prioritizing teachers. Although district and union officials resumed talks Sunday in an 11th-hour bid to avert a strike, they failed to cut a deal.
After months of negotiations, mediation and a fact-finding session with a neutral third party, the district last Wednesday offered a one-time 3 percent bonus for the current 2018-19 school year and a 1 percent salary raise for the coming 2019-20 school year. On Sunday, the district amended that offer to include an additional 0.5 percent salary raise in 2019-20 for every additional $1 million it receives in state funding that year, up to an additional 1 percent total.
Joe Ku’e Angeles, president of the teachers union, panned the latest offer as a “contingency plan that didn’t carry any weight.”
The teachers union had also put its “last, best” offer on the table Wednesday, asking for a 10 percent raise over the same two-year period; it hasn’t budged since. It initially sought a 20 percent raise over two years, plus $1,500 one-time retention stipends and a reduction in the number of salary steps to allow teachers to earn higher pay levels faster.
New Haven’s teachers are the highest paid in Alameda County, with an average annual salary of $96,554. The lowest paid teachers get $72,886 and highest receive $119,350.
But union members say they must pay their full health care premiums, which can vary but hover around $20,000 for many.
“You can say all you want about being high paid, but if it’s not enough to live on, I’m not sure what that means that it’s high pay. Then what is everyone else doing?” Brenda Moreno, a resource specialist at Logan High, said while picketing in front of the school Monday morning.
“You need to take a look at the measuring stick, because it may be the wrong measuring stick,” she said of how the district evaluates what is fair pay.
“This is a tragedy for the students. This could be easily resolved,” said Teri Gruenwald, an eighth-grade language arts teacher who plans to retire in June after 31 years teaching.
“Things must change, and we’re here to make sure that happens,” Ku’e Angeles told union members and supporters Monday morning at a rally outside Logan.
“Simply stated, we cannot afford to give a substantial, on-the-schedule, salary increase,” Arlando Smith, the district’s superintendent, said last week in a written statement.
The district — which serves about 11,000 students across 12 schools in Union City and South Hayward — has cut about $3.9 million from the current 2018-19 school year budget and says an additional $4 million may need to be slashed in the coming year.
On Monday afternoon, Smith called the strike “unfortunate” in a statement to this news organization.
“I hope both sides can come together and reach an amicable resolution,” he said. “This is not good for the health of the community, the health of our district or the health of our profession.”
The strike comes with less than a month left of school, a time when teachers typically help students wrap up end-of-year assignments, and at Logan, prepare for finals.
Some teachers on picket lines Monday said the district management caused the strike by not being flexible enough in bargaining, and no matter the effect on students, educators say they’ll stick it out.
“We’re pretty united here, and we’re not talking about ending it anytime soon. We’re talking about getting a settlement,” Moreno said. “We all hope that the end doesn’t take that long. That would be a shame.”
Some students, like Roland Baca and Anthony Bernardo, both 15, said they didn’t attend school Monday because it’s a waste of their time.
Baca said the strike is “putting us in a bad situation,” because students won’t get a chance to improve their grades before finals if the strike continues for long. The school year ends on June 13.
Bernardo said he hopes the “district gets its stuff together and pays the teachers.”
A neutral fact-finder’s report on the negotiations issued May 6 recommended the district bump teachers pay by 3 percent retroactive to the middle of the current 2018-19 year, effectively giving them a 1.5 percent increase this year, which would become a full 3 percent in following years.
The fact-finder also recommend an additional 3 percent bump in 2019-20, but didn’t specify if it should be an ongoing raise or one-time bonus.
Teachers also blamed the district for spending more on administrators than teachers amid falling enrollment.
Since 2013, the school district has lost about 1,062 students, according to the fact-finding report. Meanwhile, between the 2010-11 school year and the current year, district spending on management has increased from 5.5 percent to 7.65 percent while spending on teachers has dropped from 54.50 percent to 44.17 in the same time frame.
“If there’s no money, then no one should be getting money,” special education teacher Kellee Thomas said while leading a picket outside Cesar Chavez Middle School in Union City.
“If there’s none, then there’s none,” she said. “But that’s when I’ll believe there’s no money, when everybody gets cut off.”
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