A stunning lack of leadership by Forestville Union School District’s (FUSD) school board and managers all but means the 16 brave members of Forestville Teachers Association (FTA) will not be in their classrooms for the first day of instruction. Absent an eleventh hour agreement that shows the district respects its dedicated teachers, FTA will be on strike for a fourth day when class is scheduled to begin tomorrow, Aug. 15.
For months, FUSD officials have had the opportunity to avert a strike and avoid impacting Forestville students. But rather than investing in the quality teachers Forestville students deserve, district managers and the school board are refusing to continue negotiations, regardless of the impact to students, educators and the community.
“It’s time for this district to invest public money in students and teachers,” said FTA Bargaining Co-Chair Ryan Strauss. “This is about a better future for our schools and our community, and about a district that seems to be indifferent to both. Many teachers are leaving for better-paying districts, which has to stop. Our students deserve better.”
As teachers picket today in near-100-degree heat on Day 3 of the strike, FUSD continues its silence after breaking off negotiations on Monday only a half-percent away from reaching a deal. Despite an opportunity to come to an agreement without affecting the first day of school, FUSD continues to fail to show the leadership that Forestville parents and community expect and deserve from their elected school board and district managers.
Forestville teachers have two offers on the table: A 10% raise over two years or a 13% raise over three years. FUSD agreed with the wage increase on the two-year offer but wanted a three-year term, ironically in the name of “labor peace.” On the three-year offer, the district refuses to budge from 12.5%, even if that stubbornness means impacting all 216 Forestville students and their families on the first day of school.
Forestville teachers have already sacrificed three days of pay while on strike—the equivalent of about 1.5% of their annual salaries—which more than covers the half-percent difference between the two sides. This fact alone shows that FUSD’s claim that they can’t afford FTA’s offer is an absolute fabrication intended to undercut the teachers who dedicate their lives to Forestville students.
“There have been times when I have purchased things for my classroom because my students needed and I have gone without,” said FTA first-grade teacher Noelle Huberty. “We are just trying to make it in Sonoma County. I continue to put my students first, but I cannot put myself and my family last.”
Adding insult to injury, at least one Forestville School Board member has taken to Facebook to malign FTA’s committed teachers. Rather than show leadership for Forestville students, FUSD Board member Josh Nultemeier is spouting union-busting propaganda in online comment threads, exemplifying the major lack of respect FUSD managers have for their teachers.
Sam Ehrlich, husband of FTA member Chelsea Ehrlich, said that it’s obvious the Forestville School Board is completely out-of-touch with what FTA teachers mean to students and the community.
“Please try to consider for a moment how desperate your community’s teachers must be if they are willing to risk the smooth beginning of the children’s school year. It’s the teachers who are working in their free time grading papers and providing constructive feedback while sitting at home off the clock. It’s the teachers who are spending their personal money to make sure your kids have the right school supplies for the lessons they are teaching,” he said. “When was the last time you saw a board member walking the campus? When was the last time you saw a board member in a classroom? When was the last time you heard a board member talk about whether multiplication tables or number bonds were a more effective way to teach math? If these managers can’t figure out how to lead their employees effectively with care and thoughtfulness, then who will?”
With the fourth day of the strike seeming likely at this point, please consider supporting Forestville teachers by donating to their strike fund. You can also show support on social media by posting and tweeting with the hashtag #ForestvilleTeachers. Stay tuned here, on Facebook and on Twitter for developing news on the strike.