A couple hours before a recognition to honor 15 teachers from their 15 school sites, the Saugus Teachers Association protested at the Saugus Union School District’s office Tuesday.
At least 50 members of the Saugus Teachers Association took the opportunity to show up to the district building before a regularly scheduled board meeting to lobby with signs, chants and pizza.
“There’s nobody saying I want to make more money. The reality is we need to be funded for what we do,” kindergarten teacher Dia Vasquez said. “And funding is so much more than pay.”
Benefits, contract language and a salary increase are at the top of the Saugus Teachers Association’s list of demands as they met Wednesday to discuss their labor agreement with the district.
“We’re working very hard and diligently on the budget as we do every year,” said governing board member Paul De La Cerda, at the board meeting, adding he always encourages teachers to communicate with the board.
Teachers are only paid for 186 days a year, despite having to prepare for school in the summertime when they are supposed to be on vacation, educators said.
“Our day doesn’t end at 3 o’clock or whenever people think it does,” said Deborah Rocha, the SUSD teachers union president “We are often working even when you think we aren’t.”
Teachers at the meeting expressed how their continuous struggle with funding has began to affect other areas of their job, such as curriculum and even training.
“Planning a proper curriculum takes time and knowledge, things that teachers doesn’t always have,” Rocha said. “Even though I’m not a scientist, I have to somehow teach the conservation of matter.”
District officials reported from the dais that they are working on addressing staffing concerns. The district also recently sent the state a letter asking to fully fund its educational obligation, echoing a sentiment from school districts throughout California.
“We are working on staffing for the upcoming school year and are trying to get as many teachers on board as possible so we can enter next year fully staffed,” said Jennifer Stevenson, SUSD assistant superintendent of human resources, at Tuesday’s meeting.
Rocha added that it’s challenging to make time for lesson plans when elementary teachers don’t get planning periods or they have to deal with a problem child in the class. She said not all of the district’s teachers are trained to deal with a special population of students, nor are they properly equipped to attend the trainings that would allow them to be.
“When teachers try to go to training, we sometimes can’t because there are sub issues,” Rocha said, “When a teacher plans for a substitute in order to attend training, the teacher can get pulled out of training and back into class due to the substitute shortage.”
Teachers at the meeting felt that district and state legislators have been unwilling to support them, whether that be financially or giving them a theoretical pat on the back for a job well done.
“We don’t have aides in our classroom,” Vasquez said, “yet there are more expectations for teachers and students to succeed.”
Teachers counsel kids, create art and music events, provide customer service to parents and teach others how to be kind, often on their own time.
“Everyone says, ‘I could never do what you do’; ‘how do you do it?’; or ‘I love you, and I have so much respect for teachers,” Vasquez said, “but it doesn’t seem to go further than words.”
“Teachers will do what’s best for our membership,” Rocha said. “We don’t want to walk out of a classroom and fight for a raise, but we want to fight for our voice and where we feel our place should be in the scope of politics.”