Teachers cut extra hours to protest talks

STORY AND PHOTO BY CRAIG SHULTZ

   STAFF WRITER
   While school teachers are paid to work from shortly before the first bell to shortly after, many put in extra hours. They stay after school to tutor students, give up lunch to oversee the chess club or spend hours at home grading papers and reading essays.

   But educators in Hemet – in a 
labor dispute over salary and class sizes – are not doing anything more than their contract calls for and are not participating in voluntary activities.

   Each morning, a group of Hemet High teachers gathers outside the school, entering en masse at 7:30 a.m., their contracted starting time.

   Art Plinski, a history teacher and member of the Hemet 
Teachers Association’s organizing committee, said the move, called “work-torule,” is to make sure parents know about the situation in their schools.

   “We’re simply trying to gain the parents’ awareness, so they’ll start relaying to the school board that the status quo is not enough,” he said.

   Teachers have been working without a new contract since 2012.

   Teachers say the district’s proposed 4 percent salary increase is not enough, and the district agrees. That is why employees have been offered $1,500 toward their costs of benefits, which makes the raise up to 7 percent, depending on a teacher’s salary, according to LaFaye Platter, deputy superintendent of human resources for Hemet Unified School District.

   “We agree that 4 percent 
is not enough, and 4 percent is not what we’re offering,” Platter said.

   Plinski said Hemet teachers are among the lowest paid in the county, and the salary scale isn’t about just putting more money in educators’ pockets.

   “When we do talk about raises, it’s about maintaining and recruiting the very best teachers,” he said.

   An impasse has been declared in the talks. Mediators have held two sessions between the union and district administrators. Another session is scheduled for Sept. 29.

   Plinski vows that teachers will do everything possible for students during contracted hours, but nothing more.

   “It’s a short-time pain that will eventually provide long-time relief,” he said.

   Platter said the district has not received any calls from parents about the action since the new school year started Aug. 11.

   Platter said a number of students in each class grew as money was tight during 
the recession of the middle 2000s. Now that the recession has eased, and the Hemet district is getting more money under a new state funding system, class sizes are shrinking, along with the student population, which is just under 21,000 in the district.

   Hemet Unified hired 111 teachers for the 2014-15 school year, 57 who are filling new positions, Platter said.

   Many of the positions are for elementary grades, but Plinski, who had an average of more than 42 students in his five classes during the first week of classes, said that number was lowered to an average of 36 for the second week.

   If an agreement doesn’t emerge from the talks, the union has more plans.

   “If negotiations don’t turn out positive, we’ll start picketing,” Plinski said. “All of this is to ultimately prevent a strike.”

   CONTACT THE WRITER:

   951-368-9086 or

   cshultz@pe.com 
Teachers gather outside Hemet High School before 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 7. Each morning, teachers wait outside until 7:30 a.m., their contracted starting time, as a way to protest their disagreement.

CRAIG SHULTZ, STAFF

   Teachers gather outside Hemet High School before 7:30 a.m. on Aug. 7.

Published Print