Several community members voiced their displeasure at Wednesday’s regular governing board meeting over the William S. Hart Union High School District’s apparent stalled contract negotiations for teachers within the district.
The Hart District Teachers Association put the issue out in the open when over 400 teachers within the Hart district protested the state of the negotiations at the district’s Sept. 13 governing board meeting.
On Wednesday, John Minkus, president of the HDTA, gave his latest update on the negotiations, or rather, the lack of any.
“The current state of affairs, although cordial, smells like the elephant in the room,” Minkus said during the board meeting. “Your continued lack of movement (on) salary is leading to an unprecedented phase of … the negotiations process, as outlined in the EERA (Educational Employment Relations Act of 1976).”
Minkus went on to say that teachers in the district are working without a contract, which expired on June 30. The current demands of the HDTA, according to previous reporting in The Signal, are an 8.22% salary increase for the 2023-24 school year, a one-time “off-schedule” payment of 10% and an hourly rate increase to a minimum of $50.82.
Minkus said at the district’s Oct. 18 meeting that the latest offer from the district was a 0% wage hike and a 4% off-schedule one-time payment.
The following week, Hart district teachers protested at every school in the district on the morning of Oct. 25 after hearing of the district’s latest offer.
Multiple speakers commented on the situation Wednesday following Minkus’ report, all of whom were in favor of teachers getting a pay raise.
Rebecca Hindman, a parent of a Saugus High School student, said that she and her family chose the Saugus area due to the educational opportunities that the school provides. She is afraid that the Hart district will end up being labeled as the district with problems if the negotiations continue to falter.
“We are already the school-shooting district, the racist district, we are the district of bigots, the soon-to-be insolvent district and the district that doesn’t pay their award-winning teachers and classified (employees),” Hindman said. “Why would anyone move here? We chose this district for our children based on the standards set by this district by your amazing teachers. We could’ve moved anywhere. But we chose Hart. We chose Saugus as the high school for our children because of the educational opportunities that they have and have used.”
Another speaker, Kelly Franti, who identified herself as part of the “woke mob,” had only this to say: “Every single student deserves a well-paid teacher.”
The board also heard from Abigail, a Hart district parent who did not provide her last name. Abigail argued that teachers do much more than just teach and should be compensated correctly for the “enormous positive impact our teachers have on our students.”
“Teachers have superhero jobs,” Abigail said. “They are on the front lines of our children’s educational and developmental journeys, spending countless hours teaching their students, observing their behavior, listening to their words, supporting them inside the classroom and out.
“It is not easy or, let’s face it, affordable, being a teacher in this digital world and culture that does not compensate them for superhero work,” Abigail continued. “A love of teaching kids alone does not cover ever-rising bills. When we start to lose teachers because they have to seek other employment in order to pay those bills, we will find ourselves in an educational deficit.”
Hart district governing board member Joe Messina, who represents Trustee Area No. 5, said in a phone interview with The Signal on Friday that he is sympathetic toward the HDTA, but if the teachers are asking for more money, the money has to be available to the district.
“They work in mostly a great environment,” Messina said. “They work in a great community. But the reality is, if we don’t have the money, where do we get it?
“They’re part of the largest, most powerful teachers union in the country, the (California Teachers Association). If the CTA wants to fight for districts like ours to get more money, I’ll be the first one to push for them to get raises.”
Janice Dennington, president of the California School Employees Association Chapter 349, said that the CSEA is working with the HDTA to ensure that negotiations with the Hart district remain productive. The three groups met on Oct. 25 to look over the district’s budget to see how the pay raise demands could be met and are scheduled to meet again on Nov. 9, Dennington said.
“In the words of Helen Keller: ‘Alone, you can do so little; together, we can do so much,’” Dennington said. “Let us embrace this truth as we approach the upcoming negotiations with determination, respect and a shared commitment to our students. We have the power to make a real difference. CSEA looks forward to the upcoming negotiations with optimism and knowledge that by working together, we can pave the way for a brighter future for our entire district.”
The Hart district’s budget for the 2023-24 school year, approved in July, anticipates $304.8 million in revenue versus $322.8 million in expenditures, according to previous reporting in The Signal.
Hart district board President Bob Jensen said at the Sept. 13 meeting that because this is an active negotiation, he could not comment directly on the matter.
“Negotiations are confidential, but I would like to say that we, as a board, greatly appreciate our teachers,” Jensen said at the Sept. 13 meeting. “They work very hard and are extremely dedicated. We are most thankful for all they do to serve the students and families of the Hart district.”