Several school teachers took to the podium during the public comments portion of the Tehachapi Unified School District's regular board meeting held March 25. Emotional pleas were made by the teachers towards board members concerning the 2.5 percent pay raise they are seeking, with no furloughs.
Local teachers have not seen a pay raise in the past six years. In addition, there is much contention concerning the board's recommendation that teachers absorb duties formerly provided by yard duty aides.
According to Superintendent of Schools Lisa Gilbert, contacted following the board meeting, teachers last received a pay increase in the 2007-08 school year.
She added that the district is in negotiations with Tehachapi Association of Teachers on a contract to replace the three-year contract that will expire June 30.
Negotiation meetings have been set for this Thursday, April 4, and another for April 10.
Gilbert said that the district has already settled its contract with the California School Employees Association, the union that represents non-certificated personnel including bus drivers, cafeteria workers and clerical staff.
That contract will provide a one percent salary schedule pay increase and no furlough days, she said.
Furlough days have been a way that the district and many other public agencies have made up for budget shortfalls during the recession.
Gilbert said the district has been meeting with TAT throughout the school year, but has not reached agreement on a new contract. She confirmed that TAT has requested a 2.5 percent increase with no furlough days.
"I've been a dedicated teacher for the past 20 years," said Tracey Cunningham, 6th grade teacher at Jacobsen Middle School.
"You need to gamble on us and bank on us because we sacrifice for the children of this district, and we sacrifice to keep them alive. We have teachers who are eligible to retire, but they can't retire on the lowest salary they have ever had. We ask that that you look three years down the road and see. Tell us that you believe in them, that you believe in us. We believe in the children of the district, and we are here to stay."
"In the past five or six years, not one of you have been in my classroom," Susan Galloway, 7th grade teacher at Jacobson Middle School, said to members of the school board. "You all have other jobs during the day, so you can't come see what I do. I have a master's degree. I worked hard to get where I am."
Referring to the raise requested by local teachers, Galloway said, "2.5 percent? Please? The teachers in this district, many have been here a very long time. You honestly do not know what us teachers do every day. Please remember who we are. Think about what we do."
Janice Tietz, fifth grade teacher at Tompkins Elementary, took the podium next.
"I taught for 24 years in our school district. I know that removing yard duty aides and replacing them with teachers instead sounds like a good way to save money, but it only promotes ill will. Having to spend so much time doing yard duty is really going to sap my energy. I truly believe asking teachers to do yard duty is going to be penny wise and pound foolish."
"I am grateful to be employed with this district for a long time," said Sharon Weaver, third grade teacher at Tompkins Elementary. "I think we all received hope when we heard the governor was going to restore some funding. I and my colleagues are quite befuddled as to why all us elementary teachers are asked to do so much extra. Do you realize what you are asking of us?
"At recess time, I am typically running papers, helping students, calling parents, grabbing a moment with the principal," Weaver said, adding several more duties to the list. "If I am really lucky, I get to go to the bathroom.
"I'm not complaining to you, I'm happy to do my job. I'm just asking if you realize that you are now asking us to do four times as much duties," she added, referencing teachers being asked to provide yard duty in addition to her responsibilities.
"I think the teachers of our district have been chanced in supporting you (the board)," Weaver said. "I honestly feel like I don't have the materials I need to do my work. I have started a school year without being given a single piece of paper. I have started a school year with only one ream of paper, and I have started a school year with two reams of paper. I have been forced to ask the parents to provide me with paper so I can do my job. "I do not have pencils, envelopes for report cards, or paper for report cards. The more we pay in taxes, the less we have in materials. It's kind of an embarrassment to our district that we don't have these materials."
When asked by School Board President Mary Graham why she feels her duties will increase four times, Weaver responded, "We have been told our duties will be quadrupling. This is what has been reported by our leadership after negotiations. The last proposal was that yard duty teachers be increased from one to four before and after school."
Not previously reported by the Tehachapi News was action taken by the Board of Trustees at its Feb. 25 meeting to give layoff notices to a part-time math teacher and personnel filling 6.4 full-time equivalent positions.
By state law, the district must give notice by March 15 of each year if it has staff who it may not be able to retain for the following year. Sometimes staff are not actually let go, depending on budget and school enrollment.