To the streets: Hart district teachers engage parents on state of negotiations 

Teachers at Valencia High School demonstrate their displeasure over contract negotiations with the Hart district on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Teachers across the district participated. Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.
Teachers at Valencia High School demonstrate their displeasure over contract negotiations with the Hart district on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Teachers across the district participated. Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.
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William S. Hart Union High School District teachers are taking their displeasure to the streets. 

Teachers at each of the district’s 13 comprehensive junior and senior high schools demonstrated their displeasure with the current state of contract negotiations by carrying signs in front of their campuses and engaging with parents as they dropped off their children before school on Tuesday. 

Teachers were handing out flyers containing information on how the state requires 3% of a district’s budget to be covered by its emergency reserve fund. Below that is a graph showing the district’s end-of-year-balance from the 2018-19 school year to 2022-23 against what that 3% would look like for each year. 

According to the graph, the district’s end-of-year balance has increased each year since 2019-20, starting at approximately $30 million and ending at approximately $116 million. 

Teachers at Valencia High School demonstrate their displeasure over contract negotiations with the Hart district on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2023. Teachers across the district participated. Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.
Teachers at Valencia High School demonstrate their displeasure over contract negotiations with the Hart district on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Teachers across the district participated. Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.

“(The extra money) should be spent educating the current students of the current school year,” the flyer reads. 

The flyer also contains information on how to contact each governing board member via email. 

According to John Minkus, president of the Hart District Teachers Association, the district has budged slightly on its offer from last week, though is still not offering a salary increase. The offer currently stands at a 4% one-time payment and a $4 bump in hourly pay for extra wages, such as for coaches and club leaders. 

The HDTA has changed its offer as well, going from asking for an 8.22% salary increase to a 6% increase, as well as a 5% one-time payment and $5 more in extra wages. The asked-for 8.22% salary increase would have represented the exact cost-of-living adjustment that the district received from the state for the 2023-24 school year, the largest COLA ever given out. 

Teachers have been working without a contract since the previous one expired last June. 

Hart District Teachers Association President John Minkus joins Valencia High School teachers demonstrating their displeasure over contract negotiations with the Hart district on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2023. Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.
Hart District Teachers Association President John Minkus joins Valencia High School teachers demonstrating their displeasure over contract negotiations with the Hart district on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.

Despite a 10% raise for 2022-23, 4% for 2021-22 and 3% for 2020-21, Minkus said HDTA employees — which includes teachers, counselors and other certificated employees — are not yet compensated at the level of other similar districts in Los Angeles County. 

“Even after the raises that we have achieved in the last three years,” Minkus said, “we’re still middle of the pack to bottom of the pack in almost every single area of the L.A. County comparisons.” 

District officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday. However, in a statement sent to The Signal last week, district Superintendent Mike Kuhlman said that teachers get 80-85% of the district’s total spending through salary and benefits, a representation of what the district thinks of them. He added that he understands why teachers are asking for more, but the district must be financially efficient. 

“Considering their outstanding work, I don’t begrudge them at all for advocating for increases in pay and benefits,” Kuhlman said in the statement. 

Diane Furubotten, a parent of a Valencia High junior, said teachers are what make the Hart district what it is. She likened the district’s schools and education to what private schools typically offer, but in that public-school setting. 

Teachers at Valencia High School demonstrate their displeasure over contract negotiations with the Hart district on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2023. Teachers across the district participated. Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.
Teachers at Valencia High School demonstrate their displeasure over contract negotiations with the Hart district on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Teachers across the district participated. Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.

“We don’t want to lose that,” Furubotten said in a phone interview. “You’ve got adults that are family members that are very much all about their child’s well-being, their child’s education. So, it’s important to the parents.” 

The purpose of Tuesday’s demonstration, Minkus said, was to inform parents like Furubotten about the current situation. Should things continue along the current path, Minkus said it’s possible that teachers begin to align themselves with what their contracts tell them to do — namely, using their brunch and lunch times as their own personal time, not a time to further help students. 

Furubotten said that could hurt the students, but she understands why the teachers would do it. Teachers won’t start closing their doors during school hours until next Tuesday, Minkus said. 

Stephen Whelan, a theater arts teacher at Valencia and a site representative for HDTA, was one of the approximately 25 teachers who were engaging with parents before school on Tuesday. He said it would be hard for him to turn his students away as his program is large, but if it would help get negotiations moving, he’s all for it. 

Teachers at Valencia High School demonstrate their displeasure over contract negotiations with the Hart district on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2023. Teachers across the district participated. Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.
Teachers at Valencia High School demonstrate their displeasure over contract negotiations with the Hart district on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024. Teachers across the district participated. Tyler Wainfeld/The Signal.

And while he’s aware that it isn’t representative of every parent, Whelan said the support that parents in the drop-off line showed — honking as they passed by or saying something as their kids were getting out of their cars — meant a lot. 

“I haven’t seen an angry face or a frown or a thumbs down of any kind,” Whelan said. “So, I think overall, they do support us.” 

As negotiations continue through month eight, Minkus said the HDTA is now working with the California Teachers Association to determine what the next steps will be, and to make sure that everything is being done according to the books as the union enters an almost unprecedented situation with the district. 

“We haven’t gotten this far previously, and one of my positions has been that we will follow the rules,” Minkus said. “I have asked CTA to come in and give us limitations on what we can say, what we can do, and timelines so that we follow them properly. We’re gonna do this the right way.” 

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