A union representing more than 140 Calaveras Unified School District teachers and other employees plans to call for a strike authorization vote, the president of the Calaveras Unified Educators Association said Tuesday evening.
“We already know we have enough people to easily pass the strike vote,” Lorraine Angel, CUEA president and a resident of Campo Seco, said outside a Calaveras Unified School District board meeting between San Andreas and Valley Springs.
Teachers want a 7 percent increase for fiscal years 2016-17 and 2017-18, said Deborah Giorgi, a first-grade teacher at Valley Springs Elementary.
The district has offered 2 percent, ongoing for every year, Mark Campbell, superintendent for Calaveras Unified School District, said after a closed board session and before the public board meeting started.
Seventy-five to 100 teachers, classified employees, parents and students rallied, marched, chanted, sang songs and held signs outside district administration offices before the board meeting.
“Solidarity forever,” they sang. “The union makes us strong.”
Former district employee Tim Roberson, a resident of Jenny Lind, played a hollow-bodied guitar as he marched and sang. Paul Barragan, an employee of the California Teachers Association, led chants using a battery-powered megaphone.
“Who’s got the power?” Barragan asked.
“We’ve got the power!” marching teachers, parents and students hollered back.
“We’re fed up!” they then chanted to a different beat. “Can’t take it no more!”
“What do we want?” Barragan asked.
“Safe schools!” marchers shouted. “When do we want them? Now!”
School safety issues are labor concerns in Calaveras Unified School District because there have been ongoing incidents of violent student behavior at two elementary schools, the middle school and the high school over the past two years, Angel said.
“Last year. a special ed teacher was injured three times by the same student at Valley Springs Elementary,” Angel said. “These are unsafe working conditions for our employees. Management needs to do their job, place these students correctly, and provide consistent training for all teachers and other district employees.”
Giorgi said she knows a teacher who works for Bret Harte Union High School District whose husband works for Calaveras High in the Calaveras Unified district.
“They have the same number of years of service, and the same number of continuing education credits, which add to our salaries,” Giorgi said. “The teacher at Bret Harte makes $12,000 more a year. It’s not fair.”
Calaveras Unified School District serves about 2,800 students, Angel said.
Campbell addressed concerns raised by the Calaveras Unified Educators Association before the rally Tuesday evening.
“We are moving forward with lower class sizes in grades TK-3 next year,” Campbell said, indicating the move will be to a 24:1 ratio.
“We do agree that we need to form a district-wide joint safety committee,” Campbell said.
As for pay increases, district administrators have made the best offer they believe they can, “given our current and projected fiscal conditions,” Campbell said. “We project deficit spending in the next three years, and this will eat away at our reserves unless we make additional budget cuts.”
District administrators look forward to continued dialogue with teachers on the budget, with collaborative analysis, “to see why our perspectives are so different,” Campbell said.
“We all want the same objectives re: class size, compensation and other areas to benefit, students and staff,” Campbell said. “We just disagree on our fiscal capacity to do so. We respect the rights of staff to voice displeasure in whatever form they feel they must, and we remain open to ongoing dialogue.”
Campbell said no one wants to see a strike happen, but the district has to prepare for a worst-case scenario while working and advocating for a resolution.