More than 250 employees of the Chino Valley Unified School District packed the school board chambers Sept. 15 stating that union contract negotiations failed to give them a wage that is competitive with surrounding districts.
Both the Associated Chino Teachers (ACT) and the California School Employees Association (CSEA) Chino Chapter 102 were out in force stating that several bargaining sessions have not yielded results that are fair and equitable.
The two-hour hearing included more than 40 speakers pleading their cause and concluded with board president Christina Gagnier stating: “I am here in solidarity with our teachers and staff. One of my goals has always been to maintain open communication with our unions and try to rectify problems as they are identified.”
Ms. Gagnier acknowledged as true the comments of bus driver Robin Rouzan who described additional work duties performed by classified employees during the pandemic.
“We make the wheels go round and round,” Ms. Rouzan said.
Ms. Rouzan said bus drivers during the pandemic performed janitorial work, cleaned out the schools, became one-on-one aides, maintained the school grounds, and distributed chromebooks.
“A lot of people can’t do what we do, but yet we’re at the bottom of the totem pole,” she said. “For those of you who make more money than we do, pick us up and take us with you.”
CSEA Chino Chapter 102 President Danny Hernandez said the district’s counter proposal is below the cost of living adjustment which is 6.5 percent.
CSEA, with 950 members, represents security staff, bus drivers, instructional aides, nutrition services workers, warehouse workers, custodial, and support staff.
Mr. Hernandez said the contract proposed by CSEA is fair, equitable, and sustainable.
“A few short months ago, the board and cabinet were praising classified and certificated personnel for stepping up during the pandemic, but now when it’s time to compensate us, we seem to be going nowhere,” he said.
Mr. Hernandez said the next bargaining session is scheduled for Sept. 30. “Until we get our contract, we will come to the board meetings wearing blue in unity and support of classified staff,” he said.
So far, eight negotiation sessions with CSEA have been held, he said.
Brenda Walker, president of ACT, said that without the support educators deserve, recruiting and retaining teachers will be a problem. “I encourage the leadership to stand up and elevate your respect for Chino Valley educators,” she said. “They deserve their best because they give their best.”
Ms. Walker said Wednesday that four bargaining sessions with ACT have been held since last school year.
“We’re still at the point where we’re asking for one thing and the district is offering a lot less,” she said. “The state has given a lot of money to education so we’re looking for a fair compensation for all the work we have done.”
The next ACT bargaining session will be held Sept. 28.
ACT, with 1,300-plus members, represents teachers, nurses, psychologists, counselors, and speech pathologists.
Chino Hills resident Elaine Maxwell, an Ayala High teacher for 18 years, said, “I love my job and I love being in the classroom with my students, but I’ve fallen out of love with the school district.”
Ms. Maxwell said teachers in surrounding school districts are getting a 10 percent raise while already making more money than Chino Valley Unified School District teachers.
Don Lugo High School teacher Candida Celaya, secretary for ACT, said there were quite a few teacher vacancies at the start of the school year, and some are still unfilled.
Principals were plagued with the problem of hiring teachers who initially accepted the offer, then declined after receiving an offer from another district with a higher salary and better benefits package, Ms. Celaya said.
“Many teachers are saying they will leave the district as soon as they are able to,” she said.
“This is why we are wearing black, to signify the death of respect shown to us,” she added, referring to the black T-shirts bearing the message: “You Can’t Put Students First if You Put Teachers Last.”
School board member James Na told the audience he was disappointed that teachers and staff felt disrespected by the district office.
“I will make sure the superintendent and staff reach out to the leadership of CSEA and ACT to respect them and do our best not to lose any of our great teachers and staff to other districts because of pay concerns,” he said. “That should be our priority right now.”
Board member Don Bridge, former Chino Valley Unified School District teacher and former ACT president, thanked members of both unions for speaking out. “I bargained for ACT and bargained raises,” he said. “I understand the process. I hope both sides can get back to the table and get things done.”