At least 100 teachers protested during a board meeting outside the Sweetwater Union High School District (SUHSD) headquarters demanding a fair contract.
The district made an initial offer for a new contract in February, but the unionized teachers say it's not good enough. Their union, the Sweetwater Education Association (SEA) said they will not settle unless the offer is more competitive.
The union says the district has gone without a contract for teachers since June of last year, with talks focused on COIVD-19. Negotiations with the SUHSD to discuss the 2021-22 contract lasted only two hours, according to SEA President Julie Walker.
“We are now falling behind other San Diego districts in compensation and we are losing certificated employees. When you see the list of employees resigning they are leaving us for other school districts who have better pay and benefit. We are losing quality teachers and other certificated staff and this hurts students. The offer by the district given at the table also hurts students. You have employees wondering if they can pay their bills. You have employees that are giving their all to their students and they are demoralized,” Walker said.
According to Walker, the district offers a 2 percent “off-schedule bonus” which means it’s a one-time bonus and no salary increase. The last time the union saw a salary schedule increase was in 2017.
“How can I feel valued as an employee if the district doesn't feel that I am worth the pay and the benefits that other districts are allowed to give,” Walker said.
The unionized teachers spoke at the meeting, many voicing their frustration with SUHSD's initial proposition.
“We must do better than this,” said Katrine Czajkowski, a teacher at Mar Vista High School. "In 32 years with the district, I have never addressed the board on matters like this. I'm concerned about the future of our district, what we are doing to support members of our community and the children that live in our regions.”
After listening to the contract negotiations, Czajkowski said, "it seems to me like we are playing a game”.
“In my 32 years of education, I have never worked this hard compared to the last two years,” Czajkowski said.
“With teaching online, I am not a dinosaur. I can do flip grid, google quizzes, I had to do things in real-time. I had to learn all on my own. Then I had to learn how to read students’ facial expressions from the nose above. I have to ensure the students know that I love them when I can't hug them. I have to project my voice through a mask and ensure that they understand humor. That deserves more than a simple acknowledgment, that deserves a 5 percent, it deserves something like what other districts have given to their teachers,” Czajkowski said.
The SEA will hold its next bargaining meeting on March 18 at 3 Punk Ales at 3:30 P.M.