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Woodville teachers ask Board to reconsider
“It's not the money. It's the principle.”
WOODVILLE —Teachers at Woodville Elementary School are not happy. And they wanted to make sure the Woodville Union School District Board of Trustees knew it when they met for its regular scheduled meeting Tuesday at the school cafeteria.
Wearing black clothing, numerous teachers attended, ready to voice their concerns.
“We haven’t had any raises in five years and no insurance-benefit increase for the same amount of time,” said Shannon Toledo, vice president of the Woodville Union School District’s Teacher’s Association.
Mindy DeCoito, was one of the teachers approaching the Board.
“I come to you tonight to ask that you reconsider approving the tentative agreement between teachers and yourself,” she said. “When Dr. Garcia was hired, the board trusted him to negotiate on behalf of the district. Likewise, the Woodville Teachers Association members elected a bargaining team to do the same.”
After eight months of bargaining, a tentative agreement was reached. However, the agreement failed to recieve a second motion at the June board meeting and died.
“As a teacher, I felt as though it was a slap in the face. The teachers here in Woodville deserve a fair and equitable contract,” Coito said. “We choose to teach here because this is our school and we are invested in these families and students.”
Coito reported she has been paying $283.36 out of her pocket for the lowest plan of health insurance since Sept. 1. and asked board members how much they paid. Without receiving an answer, she addressed Monica Romero, president of the Board.
“You have taught our staff, by example, to stand up for what is right,” she said. “Without you, we would still be under a corrupt administration. Because of you and what you stood for, I stand before you now and ask that the Board honor the original tentative agreement.”
She asked teachers to stand if they agreed — they all did. She asked the public to stand if they agreed and a few did.
The original tentative agreement, said teacher Jason Scott, was pulled under the advice of John Caudle, assistant superintendent of business services, Tulare County Office of Education. Scott also pleaded with the board to reconsider honoring the agreement, as did kindergarten teacher Yesenia Martinez.
“It’s not about the money. It’s about respect. It’s the principle,” Martinez said. “If you don’t have money, you shouldn’t have told us. But you guys promised it and then went back on your word.”
The agreement was for a 1-percent raise plus $2,000 increase for insurance for the past year followed by a 1-percent raise and $700 more for the current school year.
Earlier in the meeting, Joanna Fung, the District’s business services consultant, reported she had good news to report on the district’s budget for fiscal year 2012-2013, reporting its General Fund Unrestricted Fund Balance as of June 30 was estimated to end with $1.8 million. But the actual figure at review was $1.9 million — or an approximate $119 thousand better figure than anticipated.
“Let me see if I got this straight,” Scott said. “We’re dipping into our savings but at the end of the year, we end up with more money?”
Some people in the audience did not understand.
Why couldn’t the 1-percent savings be used for the teachers’ promised 1-percent raise, parent Paul Guerrero asked the Board.
Fung responded that the district is not ending up with more money, simply dipping less.
Just prior, Garcia had indicated that if the Governor’s November Tax Initiative does not pass, the District is in danger of losing 10 teachers.
“We’re holding the line and not spending every dollar we have. That’s a little bit of a relief because this money is being carried over, so we have less of deficit spending,” Garcia said. “Every year we’re spending more than we’re making. As it stands now, we’re looking at seven to eight less positions in 2013-2014.”
The news did not sit well.
“You’re saying we can lose 10 employees? That’s a third of our staff. That’s hard for me to palpate,” Scott said.
Garcia responded by saying that the District still has the same number of staff it did five years ago when the daily average attendance was 600-plus students.
“We’ve lost 100-plus kids and we are getting less money but we’re spending more,” Garcia said.
The District lost a large number of students to the Pleasant View District in Poplar when it stopped intradistrict busing to save money. At the time, it was running five or more buses Monday through Friday to Pleasant View — two in the morning, three in the afternoon and at least one daily for sports.
Garcia was also attacked for accepting an approximate $3,000 raise to his salary.
“What kind of leader are you? What kind of leader deals for himself?” Guerrero asked.
Garcia said he made more money as a vice principal in the Porterville Unified School District than he does as Superintendent at Woodville. He also acknowledged working more than anyone at the school and that he did not want the money. The $3,000 was offered because the Board felt he deserved it, Garcia said.
“I did come here with good intentions. I didn’t come here for the money. It was for the community,” he said. “It has been a whole decade since the school got what it deserved.”
Before the Board moved to Close Session to meet with the labor negotiator, Romero addressed the staff, saying she’s pleased and honored that teachers feel she has taught the staff by example and that they feel the administration is no longer corrupt because of her.
She praised them for feeling safe to use their freedom of speech.
“It would have been a dream if you could have stood up in this way when it was needed. I apologize to any teachers who do not feel valued,” she said. “I can honestly say that the board and administration have done all that we can to accomodate you at this time based on the budget crisis in California. If you feel very strongly about not being valued enough, than maybe its time to seek another district that can fulfill your needs. If not, let us unite and work hard to better the education of the students in our community.”
When the Board reconvened to Open Session, the report was simple and short.
“We have given Dr. Garcia instruction to continue with the negotiating process,” Romero said.
Contact Esther Avila at 784-5000, Ext. 1045. Follow her on Twitter @Avila_recorder.