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Teachers ready to walk the line Robert Moreno | Sat, Mar 22 2014 12:00 PM

The Sweetwater teachers union for months has talked about a potential strike and last week the Sweetwater Education Association moved closer to it after a majority of the members voted in support of a strike if an agreement to a contract can’t be reached.

On March 13 and 14, 1,443 members out of 1,800 voted in favor of a strike, said SEA President Roberto Rodriguez.
Rodriguez  said the 1,443 voters was “the largest voter participation in the history of SEA.”
Rodriguez said he hopes the results of the strike vote show district officials that the union is serious about negotiating a fair contract.

“We’ve been negotiating  a contract for over a year now,” Rodriguez said. “There’s been little movement on the part of the district, there’s been the same proposal since November of last year and we believed it was time to make a strong statement. We want the district to realize how frustrated our members are.”

Union members have been negotiating a contract that includes a better health plan contribution, its first pay raise in six years and smaller class sizes.

The strike, Rodriguez said, would be an unfair labor practice strike because he said the district has reneged on a previous health care cost agreement.

Sweetwater trustee John McCann said it’s important both for the district and the teachers to get a deal in place.

“I want our teachers to get a fair agreement and I’m committed to sitting at the table and making sure that we can work together,” he said.

Superintendent Ed Brand issued a letter to staff and community members on March 12 saying that a strike would be illegal.

“Because the parties are currently engaged in impasse mediation, it is unlawful for SEA to threaten, prepare for and/or engage in a strike at this time,” the letter states.

A strike date has not yet been set, but  Rodriguez said he hopes the vote “will wake up the district.”

Teachers would be given a 24-hour notice before an official walkout, Rodriguez said.

The union president said a strike will impact teachers financially but said the union is ready to move forward with a strike if need be.

“If we go on strike, we don’t get paid for the days that we’re on strike,” he said.

At the union’s latest rally on March 17, hundreds of teachers gathered in front of the district office to protest the district’s contract proposals.

Superintendent Dr. Ed Brand postponed a March 17 board meeting because board president Jim Cartmill was ill.

Union members said that the superintendent and board members not wanting to confront the teachers was the reason the board meeting was cancelled.

But the cancellation didn’t stop SEA members from rallying.

“They (board members) know just because they cancelled the board meeting that we’re still going to show up,” said Julie Forrey, a special education teacher at Life School.

“We’re going to show up in solidarity and we’re going to support each other and the union.”

Granger Jr. High School English teacher Laura Luchau said she participated in the rally to let district officials know they just can’t go back on their word.

“We figure if those promises (the tentative agreement) can be broken, what other promises can be broken if we don’t stand up now?” Luchau said.

Board member Bertha Lopez said at the rally that teachers are entitled to do what they feel is in their best interests.

“Teachers have the right to do whatever they think is right, if (a strike is) the way to do things, well that’s just the way it is,” she said.

Rodriguez said although teachers are ready to strike, that’s not the goal.

“What we want is an agreement, that’s what we want,” he said.

The teachers’ contract expired last June.

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investigate Says:

Sat, Mar 29 2014 06:35 PM


I just happen to like foreign women better than American women, when it comes to my generation. Keep in mind I am probably close to 30 years younger than you. It seems now in my age bracket, that more American women (but definitely not all by far) act more masculine and less respectful and mindful of their own place compared to foreign women. This is just my opinion based on my experience. It doesn't mean all are or half, ext. It means greater than, like 20 & 19. That's all.

As for the ratio, I believe it's 37.5 students per class on average for a mainstream teacher (correct me if I'm mistaken) with the exception of science. Yes, I agree, this number needs to drop. 35 seems like a fair number or a good start (teacher can cap out at 175 down from 182.5) to me. In a perfect world, we would love to have less than 150 overall. I do agree, progress should be made on this issue. I also agree with the hard quota take. Our class sizes have gone up over the past 5 years.

anniej Says:

Sat, Mar 29 2014 08:50 AM

investigate - I hope I am interpreting your words wrong - it appears you are of the opinion that we American women are not mindful of our place? Please tell me my old eyes are reading your words wrong.

I am interested on your thoughts of the student teacher ratio. My recommendation that 'averages' not be used but that hard quotas be enforced and NO class be allowed over the negotiated number.

investigate Says:

Sat, Mar 29 2014 12:25 AM


Interesting insight. The personal day was just an example of how one can manipulate the system. Teaching overseas is the way to go. Great idea for anyone or everyone in education. Your daughter is supported because unlike America, most cultures overseas promote that respect. Case in point,compare American women to foreign women (or women raised by one). Same occurrence. Respect and gratitude is emphasized much more. I also agree with your last paragraph. At the same time, I also would ask myself, what can I do better in this situation? If I communicated better with parents, it may be less of an issue. Again, I completely understand where you are coming from though.

investigate Says:

Sat, Mar 29 2014 12:15 AM

I'm not questioning what your are saying. At the same time, wasn't Brand in the parking lot last week addressing the crowd? During his speech, Roberto Rodriguez is seen laughing. Maybe the person next to him was telling him a joke. Just an observation.

sosocal Says:

Thu, Mar 27 2014 01:39 PM

If anyone is still wondering why the public is critical of Ed Brand, please review the activities of this past Monday. Board meeting scheduled, although it was known there would not be a quorum. People showed up--but the meeting was cancelled. This is insulting and unprofessional behavior, and this is the behavior of Ed Brand, Jim Cartmill and John McCann. These people do not deserve to be in positions where they administer funds and make decisions that affect the lives and educations of thousands of people. They are examples of the worst sort of public servant--the kind that does not do their job ethically or responsibly.

anniej Says:

Thu, Mar 27 2014 07:33 AM

investigate - sorry, forgot to answer media question - many were there - Fox, 8, 7/39, 10, UT, Star News, and Patch.

anniej Says:

Wed, Mar 26 2014 08:12 PM

Not so sure one might define my agreeing there are bad apples in ANY bunch equates to coming around but.....

Please know that I am one of those biased community members. I stand staunchly against Ed Brand and the majority of the Board. It concerns me that Brand has money for those 'things' he values - i.e. New District office, private Charter funded with public tax dollars, and his huge salary and many vacation days yet, when it comes to student teacher ratios, raises, and increased benefit costs he cries,'we are broke'. Why did Ed Brand NOT have to complete a physical? Special strokes for special folks?

Explain to me the reverse discrimination of the insurance benefit plan where your heritage determines if you qualify?

Personal days, too many? Please define. Many corporations call them 'mental health' days. In an attempt to be transparent I have family members who are teachers. One of my daughters teaches overseas. She has often commented on the difference in which educators are treated and revered there compared to here. Her salary is HIGH, her housing PAID FOR and her medical/dental paid for as well. She is included in the countries retirement plan and her vacation days 4 weeks. Another difference - teachers there take NO disrespect - they have full reign over their students and are supported by both Admin and parents.

I have no knowledge of the offering of raises of which you speak - but I will attempt to verify.

The one grievance SHARED by Parents and teachers is STUDENT TEACHER ratio. As a Grandparent and Champion for students THAT is my priority. Can you share what is happening with that important issue?

In a perfect world all parties would find common ground and begin to build a strong foundation as a unified cohesive group. While perfection is not obtainable, surely in the year 2014 we ought to be further along..

In closing, I am of the opinion that parents must assume part of the responsibility for the collapse of our educational system. Many, for a variety of reasons are of the belief that teachers, counselors, librarians and Administrators need to do it all. Not only educate Johnny, but TEACH discipline, respect and the importance of such things as attending school on a regular basis. And then there is the topic of homework, how dare a teacher actually expect a student challenge him or her self. Again, I say IT IS TIME FOR All parties to come together.

investigate Says:

Wed, Mar 26 2014 05:17 PM

Ah anniej, you seem to be coming around. Thanks for sharing about your grandson. The "boring" teacher is the average to below-average teacher in the district. There are other issues with teachers that the SEA enables that are much more serious. Let's start with too many personal days taken, in which you would probably agree with me that it's a bigger problem. Then there are more serious issues which I won't get into but are more serious than taking too many days off.

I am cautious to reveal more and who is responsible due to biases among community activists and some residents. Again, you and the rest of the public will be informed about some disturbing issues very soon, that will be resolved once exposed.

I would encourage you and others to keep an open mind when it comes to people who enable and encourage certain behavior (some out of jealousy/envy)opposed to those who will not tolerate it.

This just in. On Friday, the district offered teachers a 2% raise the rest of the year and a 3% raise in 2014-2015, not to mention members with dependents to pay the 68% rate of insurance, therefore not having a rate increase in insurance from last year (correct me if this is mistaken). Meanwhile, SEA leadership continues to "threaten" and "bluff" to strike. One more point or question. What media source was there yesterday besides Fox 5 News? Most employed by the media are tired of SEAs acts.

Lastly, 4 more protests and the bet covers on the over 4.5 number. 1 down so far ( this line should of been enforced at the end of February when the insurance deductions occurred with employees paychecks).

anniej Says:

Wed, Mar 26 2014 08:31 AM

investigate - again I must say the shared dialogue is appreciated. Speaking for me, personally I happen to respect those that attend regularly and speak. I find them to be genuine but most importantly knowledgeable on the issues employees face.

As I stood in the parking lot last evening I was asked if I had ever been a union member - the answer "no, but watching the shenanigans of SUHSD for the past five (5) years has made me a supporter of them'. I wonder where many of the vocals would be if not for the protection that the unions offer. - I am thinking FIRED.

It is sad, with so many needs of our students that need to be addressed, we are faced with Board members charged with felonies and the total fiscal irresponsibility of the majority of the Board and Ed Brand.

Please note, I do have a strong belief that there is work to be done on the unions side. - at some point 'poor teachers' need to be addressed. Just yesterday I had a conversation with my Grandson regarding classes. He takes all AP classes - those classes he is having difficulty with - one common denominator - boring teachers who seem to not care - hand outs, no student engagement. For the record he has. 3.53. When this area of concern is finally brought to the table, I will be there calling for change. Those of you who know me know I am a champion for educators, who believes there is room for positive growth.

investigate Says:

Tue, Mar 25 2014 03:26 PM

Disagree with the ones who show up on a regular basis. I refrain from slander, but I can name at least 5 individuals in SEA leadership (or who are very vocal in various ways) who have caused various problems and whose unprofessional actions have in my opinion influenced the district to stall on negotiations. The truth is with the exception of the pay raise/insurance/class size issue with the contract, the majority of the public of South Bay are tired of those actions by specific members of SEA leadership (and no, I'm not referencing Roberto in that group of 5 or more). You will see more proof in the near future. Just be patient :)

I like your idea of different staff members attending board meetings. This would probably work as long as those 5 or so toxic SEA representatives oblige to the same idea. I can also guarantee if this took place, the board and other members in the district who are on the negotiating team, would be much more willing to work with these people. You are correct in this matter.

However, people also have a right to show up whenever they want. You mention that you're less than thrilled with employees who show up only when it hits them financially. Anniej, if the SEA leadership group was more professional, respectful, and acted more instead of making threats and bluffs for the past several months, than those employees wouldn't show up at all. Also the toxic attitude by the 1-2 handfulls of people that are strong pro-union people have greatly turned off the employees that you are referring to, as well as the majority of the residents in South Bay or in other ares of the county who are taking an interest in this issue.

You will understand more of what I am referring to as we move through the next 1-2 months.

anniej Says:

Tue, Mar 25 2014 01:44 PM

Investigate - Thank You for responding. I, as a total outsider, have observed the interactions of the various unions within the District and am of the opinion that they are NOT a united front. In my Polyanna view I would think 'united we stand, divided we fall'.

As a community member I have been less than than thrilled with employees who only tend to show up when it hits home financially. Guess I was looking to those educators I promote so passionately to show up JUST BECAUSE IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO - JUST BECAUSE THE STUDENTS NEED '''''ALL'''' OF US BANNED TOGETHER.

IN THE PAST FIVE (5) years I have only seen large turnouts from the teachers when it affected the ..

Before anyone takes offense and lamb blasts me - I know of those educators, librarians, and counselors who show up the majority of the time - they represent you EXTREMELY WELL - but it is the majority I am speaking to now. Why do the many depend on the few?Families, home there responsibilities. - I get that but IF each employee, each teacher, each bus driver, each counselor, each librarian attended at least two (2) Board meetings each year it would make a difference.

We are all. after all, in the same sinking ship and from my perspective, only a few are bailing water.

investigate Says:

Tue, Mar 25 2014 12:29 PM

Bookmakers have the over/under line at 4.5 for future number of SEA leadership-organized protests without any action taken which would include a strike or an agreement.

I'll take the over.

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