Teachers see red

Glendale Unified School District teachers took to the streets and the school board meeting on Tuesday to protest proposed layoffs and the elimination of class size reduction. Negotiations between Glendale Teachers Association and the district have reached an impasse.

There was a sea of red at the Glendale Unified School
District board meeting on Tuesday.

In a show of solidarity, teachers attending Tuesday’s board of education meeting wore red shirts and carried signs protesting a then-proposed decision by the district to lay off teachers and eliminate class size reduction while negotiations with the teachers association and district officials remain at an impasse.

The district refuses to use their reserves,” said Dunsmore teacher Janna Wells. She is also the Glendale Teachers Association elementary director.

She stood in front of the district office before the afternoon meeting with a sign that read, “No More Funny Money.”

Wells added that teachers were not clear of the exact amount in the reserves.

“These are supposed to be rainy day funds. If these aren’t rainy days, I don’t know what is,” she added.

In the meeting, during public comment, several teachers and parents took to the podium to ask the school board and superintendent to rethink their decisions.

President of the Glendale Teachers Association Tami Carlson started the comments off.

“I have come today with a few of my colleagues,” she said of the sizeable audience.

The focus of all who spoke was the layoffs and class size reduction. Many suggested that the board consider a less drastic increase in class size from the proposed 30-to-one ratio to 25-to-one. A standard class size reduction model is 20-to-one.

Many also spoke of the stalled negotiations between the association and district. The district proposed capping teachers’ health care benefits but teacher after teacher argued that they had turned down raises in the past in order to maintain the high quality health care they receive through Glendale district.

Health care then took center stage as teachers shared stories of how their good health care continued to benefit them and in some cases attributed it to saving their life.

“I am speaking from my heart,” said teacher Aghavni Pakradouni. “I have been in the district for over 21 years…I have bled for this district.”

She told the board of her fears of taking the financial and health care reductions.

“You are not dealing with numbers but people…that you will have to look in the eye and say, ‘I’m sorry you lost your house but we need that cap,’” she said.

The board listened to the concerns. Superintendent Michael Escalante told of how he had recently needed his health care insurance after a serious car accident.

“Even with insurance our bill was over $200,000,” he said. But the fact is that insurance costs are rising not only in Glendale, but in the country, he said.

“One way or another we will be consumed by health care costs if we don’t address the issue,” Escalante added.

The meeting continued with some teachers staying on to listen to the presentation of the budget.

Board President Mary Boger and Escalante spoke of the neighboring districts that are facing layoffs and in some cases closing of schools.In the end, the district voted to eliminate 112 teaching positions and those classes that had 20 students to one teacher – kindergarten through third, and ninth grade classes – will have 30 students beginning in the fall. Fewer classrooms equal fewer teachers.

Glendale is not the only district facing budget issues. On the same day, Los Angeles Board of Education voted to send out 5,196 layoff notices to teachers, administrators, counselors, school psychologists, librarians and school nurses.