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Voice: Mother expresses concern about lack of teachers' contract

March 31, 2001

I am the mother of a child who attends one of El Centro's elementary schools. I am very concerned that the conflict between Superintendent Klentschy and the teachers is causing harm to our children.

Regarding the continuing dispute between the El Centro Elementary School District and the teachers' association, I wonder if it has occurred to anyone else that maybe the reason teachers have gone almost two years without a contract is because the school district doesn't want them to have one?

I have reviewed what the district has offered and what teachers are asking for, and I can tell you that if I were a teacher who worked in the elementary district (which I am not), where student performance and test scores are up, I would be as mad as they are (and then some). If I were new to the district, I'd probably be looking for a teaching job somewhere else right about now. In fact, I might even be considering the Calexico Unified School District, where a settlement was reached for significantly more money than El Centro's district has offered its teachers — and without the demeaning changes in contract language designed to force them to work even more unpaid overtime.

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For several years, teachers' salaries did not keep pace with inflation. The ECESD, through its superintendent and its San Diego-based attorney, has offered teachers a 4 percent raise for the 1999-2000 school year, and another 5 percent increase in the current school year. The problem is that the 4 percent would apply to half of last year, and the 5 percent, which is effective on ratification, will apply to virtually none of this year. Not surprisingly, teachers believe this is patently unfair and punitive. I think most reasonable people would agree. Clearly, this isn't about the school district trying to revise it contract with teachers; it is about forcing them into a strike.

What's been lost amid all the acrimony and distrust is that our children will continue to be harmed the longer this goes on. And it has gone on far too long. But if teachers finally do strike, and they are surely (if clumsily) headed in that direction, it will be because the superintendent and school board want them to and have forced them into it.

In light of the settlement in Calexico, I hope the people elected to lead our district will finally do so. The question I put to our school board is threefold:

Who is in charge over there, haven't you seen enough and what are you waiting for?

LOURDES GARCIA

El Centro

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