Some 200 people, including teaching colleagues from Oregon, attended the August Del Norte Unified School District Board meeting to demand district managers return to the bargaining table and agree to a fair contract with teachers.
The two sides are at impasse because after six months of negotiations and seven meetings, the DNUSD managers refuse to budge from a one-percent salary offer. Del Norte Teachers Association members, on the other hand, have done their homework and offered four compromises before landing at a cost-of-living increase of 4%. “We even got creative and offered 1% plus $800 toward health insurance and to remove a few of the extra duty days currently required in the contract. That would come to about 4%,” DNTA President Marshall Jones said. “Time and money are valuable.”
“Work with us, that’s all we ask. This school board can direct district managers to come back to the table and work with educators,” Jones added. “They are able but unwilling.”
Located in Crescent City, in northwestern California, DNUSD has 4,000 students. Teacher turnover is an issue, “and that’s not good for kids,” Jones said. Nine teachers left last year and there are 21 new teachers this year. There are 213 DNTA members, including counselors, speech language pathologists and school psychologists.
Do They Know What Teachers Do?
Wearing #RedforEd shirts, speakers shared stories of caring, commited DNTA professionals and asked the board to compromise with educators.
“Mom, if they don’t think you’re valuable enough for a raise, they must not know what you do.” That response from Patsy Shelton’s, 22-year-old son, Wyatt, when he heard the DNUSD management was unwilling to compromise with teachers. Wyatt is an entry-level firefighter for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, doing seasonal work, and will make more money than Shelton, who is a seventh-grade English teacher at Crescent Elk Middle School.
“I put out more fires than he ever will,” Shelton said. “I learn the names, the personalities, the needs, the hopes and the dreams of 180 students. And I leave the classroom every day kicking myself when I didn’t meet the needs of a particular student. I carry that burden on my shoulders every day of my life.”
Teachers from just across the border came to support the DNTA members, including a former student of Jones. Dane Tippman, a 2005 DNHS graduate, is now president of the Brookings-Harbor Education Association in Oregon. He told school board members “this is something you can fix. You have the power to make a change here.”
A fact-finding hearing is planned for September. In the meantime, Jones says DNTA members will take their message to the community, attending football games, farmer markets and community events. DNTA is sponsoring a back-to-school bar-b-que September 7 and “we’re inviting the district managers and school members to come and break bread with us.”
“We work hard for our students. We hope this school board will step up and work with us to achieve the resources and opportunities our students need to succeed,” he said.