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Sweetwater district teachers vote on strike

Healthcare cost, salary, class size, classroom safety at issue

Sweetwater Union High School District teachers will be taking a strike vote March 13–14. The vote, according to Roberto Rodriguez, president of Sweetwater Education Association, is to authorize the association’s board of directors to go on strike for an unfair labor practice or in case the district imposes a last, best and final offer.

The unfair labor practice claim was filed by the association because, they argue, the district reneged on a health-benefits offer presented at an earlier point in negotiations. Other issues on the bargaining table are salary, class size, and classroom safety.

Rodriguez believes there is strong teacher support for the strike vote: “I’ve been visiting school sites and the feedback we’re getting is pretty positive, some sites 75 percent in favor and some as high as 95 percent.”

Rodriguez said quite a few families were hard hit after the last pay period when the new health-benefit plan went into effect. On top of that, he explained, payroll made an error and some teachers had money taken out of their checks for a month and a half’s worth of benefits.

Julia Palumbo is a teacher with the district. She recently had a baby; her maternity leave is over but she’s staying out a little longer on unpaid leave.

“This whole health-benefit thing has been a nightmare,” Palumbo said. “When I was pregnant they gave us two weeks to make a decision about a whole new plan. My husband and I didn’t know what to do. We were trying to make a reasonable plan for our future and then everything changes. Finally, we filled out the paperwork and split up the family [for insurance coverage]. My husband teaches in the district, so we put our son on my husband’s plan — my son has teeth and so we gave him the better dental plan; I put the baby on my plan because she doesn’t have teeth. Our dental plan is in Tijuana.

“We filled out all the paperwork and then the district messed up and took more money than they were supposed to. As it is, we have $729 deducted monthly for our health plans.”

The vote will likely be tallied Friday night, March 14. However, Rodriguez said that does not mean teachers will go on strike Monday the 17th; rather, “It gives the [Sweetwater Education Association] board of directors the authority to call a strike when we feel it’s strategically advantageous.”

Rodriguez said the association will be meeting with parents in the next few weeks to continue to explain the issues and to solidify their support. He believes issues such as student-pupil ratio and classroom safety are equal concerns for both parents and teachers.

“It’s not uncommon to go into a classroom — particularly a required class like English, math, or science — and see upwards of 40 students in a class,” Rodriguez said.

Manny Rubio, spokesperson for Sweetwater, said in an email: “The district is committed to continuing to negotiate to find a resolution to this matter. We will have some more specific responses to the potential labor action soon that will be posted on our website. “

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Sweetwater Union High School District teachers will be taking a strike vote March 13–14. The vote, according to Roberto Rodriguez, president of Sweetwater Education Association, is to authorize the association’s board of directors to go on strike for an unfair labor practice or in case the district imposes a last, best and final offer.

The unfair labor practice claim was filed by the association because, they argue, the district reneged on a health-benefits offer presented at an earlier point in negotiations. Other issues on the bargaining table are salary, class size, and classroom safety.

Rodriguez believes there is strong teacher support for the strike vote: “I’ve been visiting school sites and the feedback we’re getting is pretty positive, some sites 75 percent in favor and some as high as 95 percent.”

Rodriguez said quite a few families were hard hit after the last pay period when the new health-benefit plan went into effect. On top of that, he explained, payroll made an error and some teachers had money taken out of their checks for a month and a half’s worth of benefits.

Julia Palumbo is a teacher with the district. She recently had a baby; her maternity leave is over but she’s staying out a little longer on unpaid leave.

“This whole health-benefit thing has been a nightmare,” Palumbo said. “When I was pregnant they gave us two weeks to make a decision about a whole new plan. My husband and I didn’t know what to do. We were trying to make a reasonable plan for our future and then everything changes. Finally, we filled out the paperwork and split up the family [for insurance coverage]. My husband teaches in the district, so we put our son on my husband’s plan — my son has teeth and so we gave him the better dental plan; I put the baby on my plan because she doesn’t have teeth. Our dental plan is in Tijuana.

“We filled out all the paperwork and then the district messed up and took more money than they were supposed to. As it is, we have $729 deducted monthly for our health plans.”

The vote will likely be tallied Friday night, March 14. However, Rodriguez said that does not mean teachers will go on strike Monday the 17th; rather, “It gives the [Sweetwater Education Association] board of directors the authority to call a strike when we feel it’s strategically advantageous.”

Rodriguez said the association will be meeting with parents in the next few weeks to continue to explain the issues and to solidify their support. He believes issues such as student-pupil ratio and classroom safety are equal concerns for both parents and teachers.

“It’s not uncommon to go into a classroom — particularly a required class like English, math, or science — and see upwards of 40 students in a class,” Rodriguez said.

Manny Rubio, spokesperson for Sweetwater, said in an email: “The district is committed to continuing to negotiate to find a resolution to this matter. We will have some more specific responses to the potential labor action soon that will be posted on our website. “

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Comments
27

Thank you, Susan. You are always there for us. Come rain or shine or bully threats, we will be there to fight for what is right.

March 13, 2014

I am not a teacher, but have been following the assorted messes, disasters, cover-ups, schemes, diversions and dare I say, idiocy, that has been Sweetwater for quite some time now.

Ed Brand has wasted more money on his discretionary pet projects, has ensured that he and his wife will have gold-plated health care for life, yet he persists in wanting to reduce the health care benefits of teachers.

Despite an earlier agreement that they would remain in place.

And the do-nothing, know-nothing board of trustees lack the gumption to do the right thing.

These teachers need to be heard. They need to be listened to. They are being systematically undermined by Ed Brand and his pals...the bringing on of charter schools is being done primarily to reduce the strength of the teachers.

What the public needs to know is that Ed Brand does nothing to build up students, teachers, the educational system...it is all done for himself, his money, his friends, his friends' money, which will end up further enriching Ed Brand. Because Fast Eddy, who likes to strong-arm and intimidate, really likes it when his friends can pay back his favors.

Education? More like Mafioso, old-school. Allegedlies all around, of course.

Time for Fast Eddy to learn a lesson.

March 13, 2014

And things just got a little trickier with Q pleading out and Cart-run-of-the-mill in pre-op.

March 18, 2014

Why does a District that benefits from Local Control Funding more than most always seem to have "financial trouble" seem to never have any money? We all know there are issues. The problem is nobody seems to really fess up to the real numbers. It is deception do not tell anybody sweep under the rug or get rid of somebody who wants to tell the truth.

Before we get into the money let us just start with a District who really gives a damn about the Teachers. You don't become a Teacher to make a killilng in life. Let us start with respect.

I used to be a Teacher but now in Adminsitration. Look when the vast majority of your costs are staff related you can control costs primarily in three fashions, reduce personnel, increase class size, or decrease salary and benefits. So if you knew the real financial condition then it pretty comes down to arithmetic. The problem is this District lies and hides.

Look at the new District Office. Tom Calhoun's touts this like it is the best thing since the iPad. Wait let me think of a better example.

We can afford a District Office? Are you kidding me. What an arrogant bastard we have at the helm.

March 13, 2014

Yes, I'd have to agree with you here.

Will we ever get that forensic accounting report that goes back to Fast Eddy's first (messed up) administration?

Why are there money problems? Let's ask the Edmeister himself where all the money has gone.

March 13, 2014

If you are referring to the CFO Mr. Alt, what prevents him from speaking out? If he was fired for trying to be ethical, I wonder why we've never heard any more from him? Did he have to sign a secrecy clause of some kind?

March 13, 2014

Maybe because of pending litigation would be my guess.

March 16, 2014

Teachers, come down and smell your pink slips. You think your unión will save you when we issue the 300 pink slips we have been preparing? No talking to the students about your silly premature strike plans, you aren't allowed to. Those of you who DO speak of it in class will be the first to get pink- slipped. We have iPads to teach the students now, and we don't need you. We can pull you out like weeds if you don't respond well to our leadership. The media will make you all look like union buffoons. The parents will support us when we terminate you. Buh bye teachers!

March 13, 2014

Yes plonk your kid in front of an iPad and see what happens. Why didn't that work when we put books in front of them?

March 14, 2014

Velma, your comments are the absolute best. I don't think that many of the readers realize that you're engaged in satire. The problem is that you are saying just what many of us fear is being said at district hq behind closed doors. Most entertaining, keep the comments coming.

March 14, 2014

oh thank goodness had me going, it is too real, too real.

March 14, 2014

So now Brand is bringing in a mediator group, which means that the teachers cannot go on strike, as they are required to negotiate in good faith...as reported by the local NBC affiliate. How can Brand require that the teachers negotiate in good faith when he himself has not been doing that for as long as I can remember?

March 14, 2014

According to everything I've read, teachers are simply giving their leadership the authority to call a strike when and if it becomes necessary. How can getting direction from your membership be illegal? It sounds like Brand's playing the "good-faith-bargaining" card is just another attempt to deceive the public and bully teachers into submission with the fear of losing their jobs. I understand his evaluation might be on Monday's agenda. Will the school board finally put an end to this?

March 14, 2014

Two important issues on Monday night's agenda. Both are in closed session. Ed Brand will finally, after 1.5 years, get his performance evaluation. Also, the trustees will vote to spend $15 to $20 million on new district offices.

If you want to voice your opinions on these two items, email the board: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]

I know we have absolutely no faith in a majority of the trustees - two of them are buffoons. I will let you guess which two. But lets still reach out to them.

March 14, 2014

It has come to my attention that another item is asking for $400,000.00 to add to legal defense. These guys are too old to be the Me Generation. That's all it is, however. If they consider this a business and the students and parents as customers, the Better Business Bureau would not endorse them and other consumer agencies would close them down IMMEDIATELY!!!

March 14, 2014

My guess is that the $400,000 for legal defense is what Brand is using to ensure the "cooperation" of those who are still under indictment. I am sure he is thinking that with Cartmill and Quinones firmly in check, McCann will never stand up for anything, and Bertha Lopez will be again left out the outside trying to do the right thing all by herself.

Except I think we have a chance. We need to get through to everyone that Brand is persona non grata, and he and his corrupt bullying need to go!

March 15, 2014

I sent my letters...hope it does something!

Thanks for posting the links, it made it much easier to accomplish!

March 15, 2014

I am hearing from PARENTS that they are intending to keep their students home if the teachers strike. No money coming into the District 'too bad' they say. 'It is not like Mr. Brand, Mr. Cartmill or McCann care about the students or taxpayers anyway'! The parents see this as their opportunity to take control and send a stern message - YOU HAVE FAILED - our students, our teachers and the taxpayers - we are in control now!!!!!!!!!

March 14, 2014

It is true that the Board and Dr. Brand do not care about the community, the parents, the students, the staff (have I left anyone out?). If a person is truly interested in the students, they would not be making the decisions of this superintendent and board. It is all too sad.

March 14, 2014

Mayday mayday time to scuttle the whole lot of them. Keep your kids at home and the press will be crawling all over this. If John can not handle a school district how can he expect to run a city. Does the city have any heroes that are willing to stand up for these kids?

March 15, 2014

Brand will supposedly be evaluated on Mon.in closed session finally. I wonder if Cartmill and McCann will attempt to take it off. Time to express ourselves to deaf ears. Who knows which way Pearl will sway. People think she's finally wise to Brand I'm not so sure about that. I do know the property is up for a vote and it has to be unanimous or it's a no go. See you all there.

March 16, 2014

What worries me is that even though voting could easily go 2 against 2, in the past Ed Brand has stated that in Sweetwater, a tie vote means that whatever is voted on, passes--as opposed to how Robert's Rules of Order work everywhere else. But then again, we know Brand is on record saying that he doesn't need to abide by Robert's Rules of Order.

March 16, 2014

I do know that the Board has a policy in the case of an abstention, where it will be counted as a yes vote, but not any where a tie vote is counted as approval. Hope I'm not wrong.

That rule in the case of abstentions needs to be changed. It is there to allow a board member to have plausible deniability by not having to cast a yes vote and yet still have their vote counted as a yes. A "CS" rule if you ask me.

March 16, 2014

Pearl's vote on the new district office building will show her true nature. If she votes for it we will know she does not care. Our National City community is depending on her to do what is right for our children. We need the money to fix up the schools not for new offices for district employees in Eastlake. Pearl lives amongst us and we need her vote for what is best for us.

March 16, 2014

Any thoughts on the cancellation of the board meeting? Jim Cartmill reportedly is ill, and that is the reason given.

March 16, 2014

I am a mother who happens to have children in this District. Let me tell you even when I know some of you won't care, I am very disappointed with everything that is going on. How can our teacher be treated this way? They are the most important key when it comes to our children's education and no DAMN electronic device will EVER and read this right you PencilPokingVelma EVER equal in any way to a teacher! You think you are a bad ass typing behind your screen hiding behind a stupid name typing what you did? Well let me remind you a little something, us parents are the ones who decide and don't you doubt that for one moment. You think you are better than my kids' teachers? Well news flash Velma, I would rather use OUR District's money to pay for a teachers FAIR salary AND BENEFITS than yours!! And honestly, I don't know what kind of office work you do, but I am sure YOUR position can easily be replaced by any other High School graduate or who knows? By any other electronic device ;) so zip it...oh and did I forget to mention I am a voter who happens to have LOTS AND LOTS of parents who go along with what I ask? Oh and my daughter just told me her tummy hurts and she was vomiting so she won't be going to school 2morrow. I guess the district will loose money, oh well! It's not being used properly ANYWAY!!

March 17, 2014

FamilyMom...you do know that Velma is being sarcastic, don't you?

March 18, 2014

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