It was a tense public comment portion during the Burton School District board meeting on Tuesday evening, where dozens of Burton district teachers gathered to demonstrate their frustration about the their ongoing negotiation for higher pay wages.
The district has been negotiating with the teachers since March, but have failed to reach an agreement. At a meeting on Thursday, a state mediator was present in hopes an agreement could be reached. No decision was made then.
Ryne Quiroz of the Burton Elementary Teachers Association and a Burton District teacher, was outside of the meeting Tuesday organizing speakers to address the board during the meeting's public comment period. Once the meeting began, it was made clear the public comment period would be held to roughly 20 minutes in total and each speaker would receive three minutes at the stand.
The first to speak was Stacy Snyder, who said COVID was extremely detrimental to students, and when they returned to school it was detrimental to their grade levels. Her anger was obvious as she spoke.
"COVID decimated school districts," said Snyder. "It set back our kids two years, and we lost good teachers. Our focus now needs to be on our children and what we can do to get them back to grade level."
Quiroz broke down some of the spending the district has made over the past eight months when he addressed the board on Tuesday.
Quiroz stated in December the board approved a one year folklorico company for $420,000. In October, the board approved "outdated curriculum" for $900,000, in September an addendum to Superintendent Sergio Mendoza's contract, in June a consulting contract was renewed for $75,000, and Quiroz listed many more expenses paid out by the district.
"All of these expenses total just under $2.5 million," said Quiroz. "These are just some of the expenses I found on our board notes. There are plenty more examples such as lesson studies, training for gates, new curriculum training. It's not that we don't appreciate what the district is doing with the spending, but they are not putting the money towards their greatest resource, our teachers."
Pilar Orosco shared her own frustrations and said she felt it was like a rivalry with the district instead of a team.
"We are here again under such disheartening circumstances," said Orosco. "We are supposed to be a team who serves our community but it's feeling more like a rivalry and it should never feel this way."
Teachers weren't the only ones addressing the board in regards to how upset they were.
"I hope hearing from the voice of a student puts some things into perspective," said Ariela Maciel, a junior in high school. "I don't understand, as a student, how you claim to care about the students but the people teaching me aren't cared about… I'm learning how to be a good person from them… My teachers are struggling for not being paid… Generally if you really care about your students, you should care about your teachers first because they are doing everything they can for your students."
While the district was unable to respond publicly during the meeting, they did release a statement saying they're committed to their teachers and students best interests, and will continue pay negotiations, hopefully reaching an agreement in which everyone is happy.
“I remain optimistic that the processes will reach a settlement where everyone will feel valued," said Mendoza.