Lorena Garcia wields the bullhorn
Teachers and supporters marched through Imperial Beach on January 21st to protest the South Bay Union School District budget plans, which include a pay raise for the superintendent that would reportedly make her salary higher than that of governor Jerry Brown’s. The teachers are calling for more nurses and counselors in the schools, 8 percent teacher pay raises, and smaller class sizes.
Police escorted the marchers (estimated in the hundreds) as they chanted and waved signs on the two-mile route down Imperial Beach Boulevard from Mendoza Elementary School to the school-district offices on Elm Avenue.
Organizers said they wanted to bring attention to an impasse in negotiations between teachers and the school district because "the district is not listening," according to Lorena Garcia, president of the Southwest Teachers Association, which describes itself as "a union and professional organization."
The marchers carried signs that read "Our superintendent makes more $ than our governor" in both English and Spanish.
According to TransparentCalifornia.com, district superintendent Katie McNamara is paid over $187,000 per year, or $216,000, including benefits, while the governor is paid less than $169,000 (less than $213,000 with benefits). McNamara received a 13 percent pay increase last summer and receives a 4 percent increase annually, according to Garcia, which is "a lot more than our overworked educators will get.”
Amy Cooper, executive assistant to McNamara and the district board of trustees, was contacted but did not reply to questions before the publishing of this article.
The teachers' contract expired last June; they are working without a contract, said Garcia via email. "The district believes they are doing much of what we are asking for, but don’t want it written in the contract," she said.
"It’s unfair the way they want to hold teachers accountable for everything but refuse to negotiate a contract that would hold the district accountable as well. If it’s not in writing they can take it away at any time. Our students need guarantees," Garcia added.
"We would like to stay at the table and work this out ourselves, but the district notified us at the last negotiations session on Wednesday [January 20] that they felt since there has been no movement that we need a third party to settle this," said Garcia.
Currently, each school nurse is required to "cover up to three schools at a time," Garcia said. "Our school nurses are responsible for specialized care for many of our students with special needs," in addition to medical care, classroom health education, working with parents, screening students for problems with hearing, eyesight, and nutrition as well for diseases.
"And that’s not counting all the record-keeping that’s involved. They do a lot more as well."