Students fight for teacher’s salaries at packed board meeting

By: Lauren Weber, Gold Country News Service
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Hundreds of students, teachers and parents turned up for the Rocklin school board meeting Wednesday night to support Rocklin teachers in their dispute with the Rocklin Unified School District for a Cost of Living Adjustment for the 2007-08 school year. The dispute began in May 2007 and continues until an agreement can be met between RUSD and the Rocklin Teachers Professional Association. On Sept. 24 both sides will meet with a three-person panel and present their cases to the state mediators in a fact-finding meeting. “We want to get this settled,” said Mary Dick, president of RTPA and a music teacher at Granite Oaks Middle School in Rocklin. “It’s very disruptive to our teaching and our students.” Dick said the fact-finding meeting will come down to the “ability to pay.” Rocklin teachers have been offered a zero percent COLA for last year’s school year. Since the start of the current school year, teachers have been working only their contracted hours – 30 minutes before and after school – which has led to no school clubs, after-hours help and tutoring. At Wednesday’s school board meeting, more than 40 community members expressed their opinions during the audience public discussion portion of the meeting. Rocklin resident Mary Jordan, a special education teacher in Roseville, has four children in the Rocklin schools, two of them with special needs. Jordan said her children haven’t been able to get the help they need this year. Additionally, being a teacher herself, she understands that teachers don’t go into their profession for the money. “We need to support our families,” she said. “I can’t afford to work in the Rocklin school district.” Because of the impact this dispute has had on students, Mallory Valenzuela, a senior at Rocklin High School, created Students for Advancing Teacher Salaries. Through SATS, students have decorated their cars, passed out fliers, made T-shirts and passed out petitions in support of their teachers. “We all care about our teachers. We are their voice on campus,” Valenzuela said. “Our teachers should be put first in these difficult economic times.” Two posters on the RUSD board chambers read “Children First” and “Educating Everyone takes Everyone” and were referenced in several of the public comments within the two hours. Other students remembered many of the teachers in the room, teachers they had during their school years and parents expressed how Rocklin teachers compare to others. “These aren’t run of the mill teachers,” said Tammi Snyder, a mother of two children in the RUSD. “Ask these kids, they’ll tell you they’re the best.” Kim Jacobs, a Rocklin resident and parent of a Whitney High School senior, hopes that an agreement can be met, but said she was disappointed with the meeting. It wasn’t that the students were supporting their teachers that was disappointing, it was how they were offering support, she said. “What I saw was a handful of teachers encouraging children to show such disrespect to our school board and our superintendent,” Jacobs said. “I have so much respect for these teachers,” she added, but was disappointed with the eruption of applaud after students’ speeches. Board President Steve Paul said that the tough part about the issue is a lack of budget. “We don’t have a budget in place from the state,” he said. “I hear what they’re saying. We want to give them (teachers) as much as we can. But we have to pay for that in some way.” Paying teachers more could possible mean cutting programs, funding and budgets, Paul said. Since spring, RUSD has made four proposals to the teachers, but none have been accepted, board member Todd Lowell said. A pre-fact-finding meet will take place Friday with representatives from the teacher’s union and RUSD representatives, where possible agreements will be discussed.