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‘The math is not adding up’: Saugus school district employees continue to demand pay increase 

A group of demonstrators gather at the Saugus Union School District office in Valencia on Tuesday, 050724. Dan Watson/The Signal
A group of demonstrators gather at the Saugus Union School District office in Valencia on Tuesday, 050724. Dan Watson/The Signal
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Erin Redor said she loves teaching, but she simply can’t do it any longer. 

Just wrapping up her first year of teaching, Redor said at Tuesday’s Saugus Union School District governing board meeting that she will not be returning to Highlands Elementary next year.

“I want to make it very clear that I’m not leaving because I lack dedication or passion, and I’m not leaving because of the working conditions at Highlands,” Redor said. “If anything, the unwavering support I received from my school is what keeps me afloat.  

“I am planning to leave education because of the harsh reality of financial instability that looms ahead,” Redor said. 

A group of demonstrators hold placards as they gather at the Saugus Union School District office in Valencia on Tuesday, 050724. Dan Watson/The Signal
A group of demonstrators hold placards as they gather at the Saugus Union School District office in Valencia on Tuesday, 050724. Dan Watson/The Signal

One of more than 100 teachers who were present at Tuesday’s meeting to show their displeasure over contract negotiations, Redor’s announcement was met by applause from her fellow teachers. Many teachers, and their family members, were holding signs, while other signs were hung up along the back wall for the entire board and cabinet to see. 

This comes after a similar demonstration was conducted at the previous board meeting. 

Tuesday’s meeting also served as the district’s recognition night for its teacher tribute honorees. The principal of each of the district’s 15 schools honored one of their teachers for their excellence in the classroom, an act that Carleen Shute, president of the Saugus Teachers Association, said did not go unnoticed as the district has also yet to provide a counteroffer to the union’s contract proposal. 

According to Shute, the union is asking for 3% salary increases. The argument presented by her and other teachers was that the district received an 8.22% cost-of-living adjustment from the state, as did all school districts across the state, a source of funding that they believe should be used to help teachers navigate inflation. 

A group of demonstrators hold placards as they gather at the Saugus Union School District office in Valencia on Tuesday, 050724. Dan Watson/The Signal
A group of demonstrators hold placards as they gather at the Saugus Union School District office in Valencia on Tuesday, 050724. Dan Watson/The Signal

“Tonight, we honored our renowned teachers with compliments and accolades,” Shute said, “but why won’t the district value us with a portion of the COLA? We are here tonight to share a simple message: teachers deserve better.” 

The STA contract is scheduled to end in June. 

The district is also negotiating with classified employees, represented by California School Employees Association Chapter 112. According to Sylvia Arnone, vice president of the CSEA chapter, the union is asking for 10% salary increases while the district has unofficially countered with no salary increases but with 1% off-schedule payments. 

“The district stated that they only increase employee salaries when it is fiscally feasible,” Arnone said. “If there was not such a huge wage gap within our district, then perhaps compensation will be fiscally feasible for everyone. The math is not adding up.” 

Arnone said that for a campus supervisor, the one-time payment would be approximately $170 before taxes, or as she put it, “a trip to the grocery store.” 

The governing board approved the final list of layoffs for classified employees on Tuesday, which includes 16.78 full-time equivalent positions that need to have hours reduced or cut due to either a lack of work or a lack of funds.  

However, according to Arnone, the affected employees are set to be rehired in new positions for the next school year. She added that this was possible due to other employees voluntarily leaving the district due to salaries not being high enough. 

A group of demonstrators hold placards as they gather at the Saugus Union School District office in Valencia on Tuesday, 050724. Dan Watson/The Signal
A group of demonstrators hold placards as they gather at the Saugus Union School District office in Valencia on Tuesday, 050724. Dan Watson/The Signal
A group of demonstrators hold placards as they gather at the Saugus Union School District office in Valencia on Tuesday, 050724. Dan Watson/The Signal
A group of demonstrators hold placards as they gather at the Saugus Union School District office in Valencia on Tuesday, 050724. Dan Watson/The Signal

“Our classified employees need to be fiscally secure to face the many financial obligations that are part of our economy today to remain where they are,” Arnone said. “We cannot afford to lose high-quality employees over low pay.” 

Superintendent Colleen Hawkins previously said that the district is waiting for the May revision to the state’s budget from Gov. Gavin Newsom before making any decisions regarding salary increases for employees. 

Nick Heinlein, assistant superintendent of business services, said that in the May 2 fiscal report from School Services of California, a business, financial, management and advocacy resource for educational agencies in California, the Legislative Analyst’s Office projects that there is an estimated $19 billion less for the next three-year budget window than was previously expected in January. 

All four governing board members who were present on Tuesday — board member Anna Griese was not in attendance — congratulated the teachers who were honored and thanked them for their service. 

“I’ve had the pleasure of being able to volunteer at my kids’ school and see our teachers firsthand out there working and doing their job and just seeing the passion and the love that they have for their students,” board member Patti Garibay said. “It’s amazing and I’m so grateful for all of you.” 

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