Since October every teacher has had about $1,000 taken from our meager paychecks to pay for the increased cost of health benefits. These setbacks have caused teacher morale to be at an all-time low. I have heard teachers with 30 years experience say they have never seen negotiations in such a quagmire.
Besides alienating current teachers, our board has potentially created an even more serious problem. Our district has been notorious for "stealing" good teachers from smaller districts in the Valley by offering a highly competitive salary and benefits package.
This is no longer true. Many of our quality veteran teachers may be polishing their resumes. Due to the teacher shortage throughout California, other Southern California districts are offering as many as 20 years service credit on their salary schedules in hopes of luring competent teachers at any cost. Other districts have recognized and rewarded top-notch teachers. Why can't ours?
How can our district salvage this perilous situation for our community's children? First, the ECESD board needs to recognize the gravity of this situation. Parents and community members must get vocal in expressing their outrage for the district's adversarial contract negotiations.
Next, I believe Dr. Klentschy, San Diego and Imperial County's superintendent of the year, needs to demonstrate his excellent leadership abilities by guiding the school board toward a prompt and fair settlement. Finally, the board must offer fair contract language in a settlement package that reflects the salary raises given to all districts by the governor.
Our only recourse is to expose our plight to the community in hopes of rallying parents and stakeholders in support of the teachers. We want a settled contract so we can refocus our attention on providing extended educational opportunities after school and in Saturday school programs to our students, who need and deserve extra help.
If contract negotiations cannot be resolved soon, I fear that a strike looms. The El Centro elementary teachers are united and prepared to take the necessary steps to protect our families so we may serve yours now and in the future.
Kennedy Middle School
Teacher and site crisis captain