Coachella teachers give school board a failing grade

Coachella Valley Teachers Association (CVTA) packed Tuesday’s Coachella Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) board meeting Tuesday night to protest CVUSD’s unwillingness to negotiate a settlement that is now in the fact-finding phase after mediation failed to bring settlement in June. The contract dispute threatens to drag into a third calendar year.

Before the meeting, a continuous stream of several hundred teachers and parents filled the elementary lunchroom converted for the night’s larger crowd. CVTA teachers looked intent as they carried their signs and filled the rows. As the board members found their seats, CVTA members chanted, “Do the right thing!” Sign-waving teachers, their frustrations emboldening them, became increasingly boisterous as it grew closer to the start of the meeting.

CVTA President Richard Razo spoke directly to the CVUSD board members and explained, “In 2015 when we started, the teachers asked for three things for the benefit of our students; collaboration time, salaries that will keep teachers from leaving, and preparation time to create inspiring lessons for our students. How can the district afford to constantly train teachers and then allow them to leave for better pay in Palm Springs, Desert Sands, Morongo, and Beaumont?”

Palm Springs Teachers Association Vice President Karen Johnson spoke openly about her district’s hiring of former CVUSD employees, stating “On the one hand, I am here to thank you for the dozens of quality teachers you have sent our way due to the dysfunction of your bargaining and your unwillingness to compromise with the Coachella Valley Teachers Association. On the other hand, I feel saddened that you have failed to put the educational needs of your district’s students first.”

Before the meeting’s end, several teachers shared classroom stories of successful student support systems they have implemented and the lives changed by those innovative programs. Board members were reminded that teachers who go above and beyond the call of duty every day find it increasingly hard to do their work when the district refuses to do what is right.

Once the State Fact-finder’s report is issued CVUSD and CVTA will consider difficult decisions regarding additional bargaining, acceptance of the report, the imposition of the district’s Last, Best, and Final contract offer, and/or concerted job actions including a potential strike by CVTA.

-Autumn Carberry and Edward Sibby