Standing in front of the Manteca Unified School District administration building is the last place that Manteca Educators Association President Erica Meadows thought she would be on Tuesday night.
But along with almost 100 other district teachers – most wearing red and carrying signs – Meadows stood strong as the front-line educators took a stand to send a message to the Board of Education as they arrived for the closed session portion of their meeting.
They want a fair contract.
With the termination date of their existing contact with the district looming on May 26, the teachers are growing impatient with negotiations. Contract talks have gone through three impasse sessions and brought the possibility of going to fact-finding, a sort of non-binding arbitration that the district has never faced with its teachers, to the verge of reality.
According to Meadows, if the fact-finding agreement isn’t accepted by the board, a discussion will have to be had amongst MEA members about whether or not striking is something that they’re willing to do – marking the first time in the district’s history where that option is on the table.
“Our goal is always going to be to recruit and retain quality educators for our students, and we wanted to show tonight that our teachers care about the education of their students and this is something that they’re very passionate about,” Meadows said. “We’ve never been this close to going to fact-finding before, and that could spur the discussion about whether going on strike is something that the membership is going to consider.”
The teachers were originally offered a 2 percent raise, which – according to the teaches – isn’t in-line with the growth of the district’s revenue or its budget since the last a contract was negotiated.
To complicate matters, classified personnel recently negotiated a 4 percent raise and the stand-off with administration of their salary increases becomes a sore spot for classroom teachers who claim that they’re still spending money out of their own pockets for classroom supplies and taking on additional non-contracted duties in order to create an environment that fosters learning throughout the district’s campuses.
“First classified was taken care of and then the administration took care of themselves,” said 21-year teaching veteran JoAnn McAllister, who is retiring after this school year. “Now it’s time to take care of the teachers.”
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