The Escondido Union High School District in Negotiations over Teacher Contracts

by Katherine Fromm and Dollie McQuiston

High School teachers let their frustration show and their anger fly at the Escondido Union High School District school board meeting on March 8th. Speaker after speaker, including students and parents, spoke in the public forum to denounce the contract proposal offered by the administration and board.  Presently without a contract, the teachers are working under the terms of their  previous contract.

Here are some examples of contract proposals from adjacent districts provided to us by a teacher.

EUHSD –  3.25% average each year for 3 years, 2% for prof. development
Fallbrook –  3.25% average for 2 years, 4% ongoing, 4 PD days (2.4%) in 16-17
San Dieguito –  6.25% average for 2 years, 7% ongoing, 5.5% for 2016-17
Santee –  4.0% average for 2 years; 4% ongoing 2015-2016; additional 4% ongoing for 2016-2017
Solana Beach –  4.5% average for 2 yrs, 3 % for 15=16, 6% off schedule 16-17

The State of California pays some pension money, but it mandates a district contribution. Teachers also contribute to their retirement fund. The district expects teachers to provide part of the district’s sum out of their pot which otherwise would go towards salary and benefits.  The teachers find this objectionable.  Other districts find more equitable ways to address the pension issue.

These figures indicate that Escondido will not provide well for its teachers.  Some teachers opined that new teachers do not join the staff here because of low salaries. Low morale was often mentioned.  Speakers made it clear that they gave back money during the recent Great Recession, but have not sufficiently compensated for that sacrifice.  Meanwhile, the superintendent, Steve Boyle, got a 19% raise after he became superintendent.  He did not forgo a pay increase.  Other administrators have also received substantial increases.

Steve Boyle, as Superintendent, robo-called parents to announce the district’s position as opposed to the teachers.  Because of inaccurate information conveyed in those calls, a follow up call with corrections was made.  This is not a practice designed to win friends and influence people.

Such a practice can backfire.  Students call can tell their parents the teachers’ side of the story.  Many students rose during the meeting to support their teachers with eloquent statements about the help they received, much above and beyond the call of duty.  One college graduate, M. Vargas, a first-generation Latina college grad, indicated that teachers invested much time and effort in her.

One male student made it clear that he could be a bit menacing in campaigning against the district.

The district and teachers entered a mediation process on Friday, March 11th, and it remains to be seen what will occur.  The teachers made it clear that they are not afraid to strike.  They submitted straw pool documents to the board

which indicated overwhelming  support for the ESTA (teachers) position.  Other faculties, including California State University faculty seem to face a similar impasse.

On another topic, one staff member, probably from San Pasqual High School, spoke about the behavior of many who attended the meeting about the two students who had knives in their possession on school property.  The proceedings were insulting to the staff members, according to her account.  People came from all over the county and their attitude and outbursts were more than disrespectful and order was not maintained.

This is the second time in recent Escondido experience that a school district meeting proceeded without order and zealous parents were out of control. An earlier summer meeting of the elementary board rechartering the Heritage Charter School featured parents who were especially insulting.

The speaker asked whether that much fury and concern would have been demonstrated over a poor and perhaps ordinary student, not one who was a a football player and another destined for the Marine Corps like other members of his family.

Did such disrespect come from a stretched sense of entitlement by parents and supporters?   Regardless of the issues involved, parents, friends, and others should be respectful; if not they should be escorted from the room.

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