Cervantes said teachers at the elementary level, already overburdened with paperwork, are being asked to find even more time in their workday to compile a new standards-based report card for each of their students as well as work on time-consuming cumulative folders for all students.
"Basically teachers have to complete these cumulative folders on their own time at school; they can't even work on them at home because of the confidentiality factor," Cervantes said.
Cervantes said the district fought hard not to allow teachers any extra preparation time to cover the new demands on their time and it was only after protracted negotiation sessions that the district capitulated and agreed to the extra time.
Other issues the teachers are trying to make ground on are:
. An untimely death clause that would give a full year's medical coverage to the family of an association member in the event of that person's death.
. Retirement bonus for teachers with 25 or more years of service to the district.
Cervantes explained while the teachers ended up with a compromise on the death clause, the district's answer to the issue of a retirement bonus was, "A flat out ‘no' at first, then the district proposed a $2,500 retirement bonus. I suppose that's better than nothing because right now that's what we've got — nothing."
"Those are some of our smaller problems," Cervantes said, explaining teachers' main concern at this point is the hourly rate teachers are paid for summer school and extra-curricular assignments. Calexico teachers earn $26 per hour while teachers in comparable districts earn $33 per hour, according to Cervantes.
"The hourly rate issue is a constant battle each year when it comes to salary negotiations and right now the district is only offering $27 per hour," Cervantes said, adding, "Our salary schedule is pathetic."
Another reason for the teachers taking to the streets is Calexico has a one-in-four ratio of noncredentialed teachers.
Cervantes said the association views the high number of non-credentialed teachers as a ploy by the district to keep salaries low, as non-credentialed teachers earn minimum salaries.
When asked if students are being "shortchanged" by having non-credentialed teachers, Montes answered with an emphatic, "Yes! Students are being shortchanged. A lot of these teachers don't even have student teaching qualifications."
"Right now," Montes said, "morale is very, very low among the teachers in Calexico … and we don't have trust in our superintendent or the school board anymore. They have gone back on their word many, many times."
There have been some nine negotiation sessions since November and an impasse was declared on March 13. A mediator has been called in and is now engaged in the "fact-finding" phase Cervantes advised.
This process involves the mediator researching whether there actually is district money available to fund teachers' salary demands and he will present his findings at the next impasse session in the fall.
When asked if the association is contemplating strike action at that time if their demands are not met, Cervantes paused for a moment and said, "Well, anything is possible … we're tired of being treated like second-class citizens."
Moreno was unavailable for comment this morning, according to his executive assistant Virginia Montejano, who said the superintendent was inspecting the picket sites.
>> Staff Writer Jennifer Ralton-Smith can be reached at 337-3442 or firstname.lastname@example.org