The mood of the crowd of hundreds outside of the Manteca Unified administration offices on Monday was low key.
But once the teachers and their leaders stepped inside of the building for the business meeting of the Board of Education?
The gloves came off.
Despite having a relatively light agenda for the last board meeting of the 2016/17 school year, the Manteca Educators Association used the forum to send a message that teachers are not okay with the district’s offer for a new contract, and aren’t afraid to use the pulpit to share their displeasure with a process that has brought the district closer to a strike than ever before in its history.
“Gone are the days that MUSD is the place to be in San Joaquin County,” said teacher and past MEA president Ken Johnson to remarks to the board Tuesday night. “We’re last in benefits and fourth in total compensation and you have to be asking yourself, ‘what changed?’
“Well, the person at the top for the last 10 years is what changed.”
Holding up a lawn sign that for Measure G – the district’s modernization bond that was backed by local teachers, and had the full support of the MEA – Johnson spoke about how without the help of the teachers who got involved with the mobilization effort, that bond issue would have likely failed and made sure that everybody in attendance knew who he speaking about “at the top.”
“I voted for you, but I did not vote for Jason Messer.”
Longtime Manteca Unified educator Andrew Anderson was less pointed in his comments to the board, instead using an analogy to describe the choices that are on the table for elected officials and administrators as the district grapples with its future in the face of tremendous growth and limited revenue.
And Leo Bennett-Cauchon, who has been a perennial thorn in the side of the board for years, pointed out that monies that could very well go towards rewarding teachers who give tirelessly to the district and its students is being shuffled around accounts to prevent that from happening.
Unless the district and CTA negotiators representing the MEA can agree on the terms of a new contract by May 26, the matter could very well end up in the hands of a non-binding arbitrator who will take testimony from both sides and then render a decision that will go back before the board for approval before it can take effect. If it reaches that point, and the board chooses not to accept the findings, then the teachers would have to decide whether they’re willing to go on strike.
According to Ericka Meadows, the current MEA President, details from the negotiation outside of what the district’s offer originally was – a 2-percent raise – cannot be publicly disclosed.
But she made her feelings known when at the lectern after delivering brief remarks to the board, she turned her back to the dais and addressed the capacity crowd of mostly educators and thanked them for the hard work that they put into their jobs.
“I still have enough time left,” she said to administration over the eruption of cheers from the crowd as she stepped in front of the dais, turned her back to the board a second time, and took a picture of the teachers who were cheering in attendance with her cell phone.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.