By Justin HAGER
Chants of “Shame on GUSD!” and “We need an MOU” filled the air at Glendale Unified School District (GUSD) headquarters on Tuesday afternoon as about 200 teachers and supporters rallied for safer working and teaching conditions and raised concerns about the behavior of GUSD board members and staff in addressing the COVID-19 epidemic.
GTA President Taline Arsenian explained.
“Glendale educators are returning to school campuses without a contract that addresses the impacts and effects of COVID-19 on safety, working conditions and leaves of absence,” she said. “The District has refused to sign a memorandum of understanding. Instead, GUSD is imposing a return to campus date in which some members will not have full vaccine efficacy, safety conditions guided by requirements and not recommendations of the LACDPH, and a concurrent teaching schedule not suitable for preschool and TK-12 grade students.”
She also noted that the relationship with GUSD officials has changed for the worse.
“All five members of the GUSD board are GTA endorsed,” she said. “They used to talk to us and ask for our input … I’ve always felt like a stakeholder. Now they simply say ‘This is how it’s going to be’ and tell us how grateful we should be to have a paycheck.”
The tattered relationship was on full display at the rally as protesters held signs with messages such as “No confidence in GUSD,” “Safety first – put it in writing” and “Our working conditions are students’ learning conditions!”
Parent and La Crescenta resident Dave Anthony said that he moved to Glendale for the schools but now feels betrayed and believes that GUSD board members have no respect for parents, teachers or even nurses and are failing to listen or communicate effectively.
“The Board doesn’t care,” he said, “and change only seems to happen when we demand it.”
Lisa Avery, a Glendale teacher and member of the GTA bargaining team, emphasized that GUSD isn’t conducting tests for asymptomatic carriers of the COVID virus and that the GUSD board meeting isn’t open to the public because it’s not safe, yet students and parents were expected to be in the classroom without a written agreement on how to keep students, teachers and staff safe.
Parent and Fremont School teacher Sarah Morgan-Arnold shared her story of being required to go against her doctor’s advice and be on campus the day of and the day after receiving her first vaccine dose. She noted that, despite repeated promises from GUSD, safety standards are not being enforced and children are being put at risk.
“The kids’ snack table isn’t being cleaned or wiped down between use,” she said. “When we complain or speak out about it, our concerns are disregarded … I want them to listen and sign an MOU so that we can have an agreed upon set of rules and accountability for keeping the students safe.”
At the conclusion of the event GTA board member Judy Scheidhauer underscored the need for accountability.
“We want a safe return to the classroom,” Scheidhauer said. “They want us to take their word, but their word is changing daily.”