The crowd of Ventura Unified School District employees chanted “stand our ground” as the VUSD School Board members entered the room. There were more people, signs, and energy than at the October 10th previous school board meeting. Teachers and support staff rallied once again, in hopes to achieve the 2 percent pay raise.
The school board’s most recent meeting was held at Ventura’s City Hall at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 14. Alongside teachers and support staff were parents, students and concerned community members. This time, it was not only VUSD employees sharing their stories at the podium — people from the community lent their voices of support for the raise.
A mother of two VUSD students demanded that the school board “stop treating teachers like an afterthought.” An eighth grade student from Balboa Middle School shared a moving poem about “what the world would be like without teachers.” As she read, she was moved to tears, her words almost inaudible.
On Monday, Nov. 20, Ventura Unified Educator Association (VUEA) and Ventura Education Support Professional Association (VESPA) will enter mediation with the school board, led by a state-appointed mediator, in hopes of reaching a fair and equitable agreement.
The length of negotiations is unknown —VUEA and VESPA Negotiations Teams have met with the school board multiple times since March of 2017 in an attempt to reach an agreement for the pay raise for the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 school years.
In the event that no settlement is made with the mediator, the school board and VUSD unions will enter the factfinding process, in which both sides will attempt to prove their data is correct. If no resolution is created after this process, they will return to mediation.
At the school board meeting, VUSD employees clearly stated that they will not back down from this dispute. James Adock, a grounds matientence worker and a VESPA Director At Large, said, “I hear people saying it seems like…the people holding the purse strings make so much more than the rest of us. They have lost touch with what it is like to make in some instances less than a quarter of some of our higher-paid personal and leadership roles.” With the cost of living rising each year, VUSD employees shared that they are struggling to keep up with their current salaries. Paraeducator Holly Riddle stated that she is visiting food pantries in order to provide food on the table for her family.
According to a VESPA and VUEA brochure, the consequences of not attaining a 2 percent raise are “huge.” It states, “By short-stringing its employees, Ventura Unified may fail to recruit and retain quality educators…Ventura Unified employees are already within the lower half of salaries when compared to the surrounding districts (Oxnard, Hueneme, and Camarillo, among others).”
As it was seen Tuesday night, Ventura’s community is becoming involved in support of teachers and staff members. Diane Elrod, Buena High School math teacher, expressed her appreciation for the support of community members. “Those who got up to speak were certainly very supportive of our teachers, our classified staff, our students, and they made very good points…the students are not well served if there aren’t teachers who are not well cared for,” she said.
Those who feel compelled to take action may email the school board. Contact information can be found on the Ventura Unified School District website:
Updates on the progression of the VUSD negotiation will be published in future posts.