Sunday, June 25 , 2017, 12:58 pm | Fair 72º

 
 
 
 

Santa Maria High School District Teachers Seek Public Support In Contract Dispute

Faculty Association holds informational meeting days before fact-finding panel hears dispute between union and school district

Parents and teachers attended a meeting Tuesday night hosted by the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Faculty Association.
Parents and teachers attended a meeting Tuesday night hosted by the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Faculty Association. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

With contract negotiations still stalled, the Santa Maria Joint Union High School District Faculty Association took its cause to parents and the public during a meeting Tuesday night as the possibility of a strike inches closer.

The teachers union hosted a meeting at the Santa Maria Veterans Memorial Community Center with approximately 60 parents and teachers in attendance. Outside the facility, a group of about 30 parents protested the union and supported the district.

Teachers said they called the meeting to inform parents and members of the public about negotiations as the possibility of their first strike in 25 years looms. 

Union representatives said members are seeking the same pay hike as the administrators and classified staff received, but the Faculty Association leaders emphasized the dispute isn’t about money. 

Instead, they said in an hour-long presentation, issues include the district’s simultaneous graduations, lack of classroom support, potential loss of teacher’s prep period and loss of good teachers in the district due to what they contend is abusive administration. 

A plan to take away teacher’s prep time and add another class will give teachers more than 200 students, a huge burden for instructors who must grade essays and provide feedback, one teacher said.

“They’re not my students, they’re my kids,” said Righetti High School history teacher Alex Jauregui. “When teaching this, we can’t give the kids the time that they deserve.”

Prep time also is valuable for teachers setting up projects for special lessons, Righetti High science teacher Colin Rodriguez said.

“Without this time, I will not be able to do as many hands-on experiments that students really gain knowledge from,” he said. 

Pioneer Valley High School teacher Riccardo Magni said the prep period also provides time to write letters of recommendation for students getting into college. 

The son of an immigrant from Italy, Magni said he was the first person in his family to attend college so he understands his students who are in the same situation. 

“It’s not easy and it takes a lot of time and energy to help these students to cross that barrier to be able to go to college,” Magni said. “The teachers need time to be able to do this.”

Santa Maria High Schoo teacher Jennifer Dolan speaks Tuesday night during a public meeting hosted by the district’s Faculty Association, with an interpreter, right. Click to view larger
Santa Maria High Schoo teacher Jennifer Dolan speaks Tuesday night during a public meeting hosted by the district’s Faculty Association, with an interpreter, right.                (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Union members urged supporters to contact board members and district officials. 

Last month, teachers armed with signs picketed outside the high school district board meeting. Signs said “This is our dress rehearsal,” “Teachers are not the problem,” and “Not on strike yet” as they filled the boardroom for a few minutes.

“Nobody wants to strike but we need to defend teachers’ rights,” said Margaret Rucker, Faculty Association spokeswoman and a Righetti High School teacher.

During the meeting Tuesday, teachers also aired allegations of retribution and retaliation, losing long-held special duties for speaking at board meetings and questioning administrators. 

School district spokesman Kenny Klein declined to provide a comment about the teachers meeting.

A parent-community group rallied with signs outside the community center Tuesday saying they support the board and administration.

Arnulfo Romero from the Parent-Community Involvement Committee was among approximately 30 people rallying to support the district, board members, parents, students and good teachers.

Romero blamed the stalled negotiations on union leadership, and contends the district offered teachers a good contract. 

“We’re not against teachers. We have good teachers, but we’re against the FA leadership,” Romero said. 

One sign told union members to stop intimidating board members who are elected to the job. Another asked why teachers make $100,000 annually for working 180 days to give students grades of D’s and F’s. 

Jauregui later told the crowd inside the community center that he isn’t aware of any teachers making a salary of $100,000.

And regarding complaints teachers give the majority of students D’s and F’s, Jauregui said, “We don’t give grades. 

“If a kid is getting an F it’s because they’re not turning in their homework. It’s because they’re not finishing they’re homework. It’s because they’re ditching my class to go do whatever. I can’t run out and get this kid to come to my class. All I can do is teach what I can teach. We let the parents know, but we have to work together.”

The session came days before the Faculty Association and district officials meet for the last step, a fact-finding session Thursday with an independent panel of three judges. 

“This is very very unusual,” said Mark Goodman, Faculty Association president. “It hasn’t happened for 25 years.”

In the early 1990s, the last time the district and teachers reached the fact-finding stage of contract negotiations, the Faculty Association held a one-day strike, union officials said. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

A group of parents protest the teachers union Tuesday night before a meeting at the Santa Maria Veterans Memorial Community Center. Click to view larger
A group of parents protest the teachers union Tuesday night before a meeting at the Santa Maria Veterans Memorial Community Center. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)
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