Sometimes you just have to go directly to the source.
In a show of protest over what they say are substandard teaching conditions, nepotism, and lack of pay raises, on Tuesday morning approximately 55 teachers stayed home from work today calling in sick. The Compton Unified School District was forced to send substitute teachers from other campuses to fill the gaps with some parents opting to pick up their kids and just take them home.
At a regularly scheduled board meeting of the district at its headquarters Tuesday evening, there was standing room only as angry parents and teachers showed up to voice their disapproval of the school board and its handling of matters.
From the parent’s perspective, school board members were more interested in giving themselves and their administrator friends raises than they were in supporting the teachers and students. Parent after parent—all Latino—got up and spoke about how the teachers should be paid more and the schools should be fixed before administrators are given any raises.
My favorite was the mother who said that she wished her child’s classroom was as new as the board’s meeting chambers with great chairs and desks to sit at.
If there were any Black parents of high school students at Compton’s Dominguez High School upset with the approximately 55 teachers who called in sick today—apparently they weren’t upset enough to come down and voice their concern.
Patrick Sullivan, president of the Compton Education Association (CEA), the exclusive bargaining agent for teachers in Pre-K-12, Early Childhood and Adult Education in the Compton Unified School District, explained before an attentive (and supportive) audience that this was about the students. Sullivan said that contrary to the district’s statement that CEA wouldn’t come to the bargaining table, CEA was scheduled to meet with the district on March 5 but that the district cancelled and rescheduled that meeting for Thursday, March 13—a meeting he said that he’s looking forward to attending.
Quite a few of the Tuesday’s public comments accused the district of hiring “friends and family” who were barely qualified to work as administrators in the district and then giving them large raises.
Outside of the meeting a group of teachers too afraid to speak on the record for fear of retaliation explained to me how upset they were about not being given a raise in several years yet the district’s superintendent received a $12,000 raise after only one year on the job. All of the teachers agreed that the issue was bigger than just raises. One teacher complained of teaching in a bungalow with holes and a sewage leak in front of the door to her classroom. All of the teachers complained about how little support they are given and that discipline is virtually non-existent at Dominguez High School, with one teacher going into explicit detail of being called a “nigger” by students repeatedly.
Of particular interest was the state of the textbooks being used. One teacher explained that it’s really hard to teach accurately when the only textbook she has to work from still refers to France’s currency as “Francs.” In 1999 France adopted the use of the euro.
The teachers explained that over the years the district’s life insurance policy has dwindled down to a mere $1,000 payout although the amount they pay into their policies hasn’t changed. In addition to the low pay and working conditions, the teachers say they need supplies, supplies that often times they have to buy out of their own pocket.
All of the teacher’s say that today’s demonstration is not the end of the issue. Other schools within the Compton Unified School District may find themselves missing teachers as “rolling sick outs” take place throughout the district to call attention to their issues.
As far as the district is concerned, today they released the following statement:
There appears to have been a concerted work stoppage effort at Dominguez High in violation of Article 25 of the Compton Educators Association’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. Approximately 55 teachers called in sick today. It appears teachers may be dissatisfied with the lack of progress related to negotiations.
Regardless of the reason for today’s event, students should never be used as pawns in conducting the business of the District. Our students’ success is our main priority here at Compton Unified School District and we intend to ensure there are no further disruptions.
It is my belief that as professionals there is a more productive way of addressing issues that arise within the District. The District will be launching an active investigation into today’s event.
Compton Unified School District serves Compton, portions of Paramount, portions of Carson, and the unincorporated Los Angeles County neighborhoods of West Compton and East Compton.
The Last Word
I’m going to go out on limb and say that if our students are learning that France’s currency is the franc, then we’re all in trouble.