Banning teachers vote to strike for 3 days — starting with Wednesday’s first day of school

Banning teachers vote to strike for 3 days — starting with Wednesday’s first day of school

Banning teachers have voted to strike for the first three days of the new school year, starting Wednesday, Aug. 8.

The vote, taken Monday, Aug. 6, was “overwhelming,” said Anthony Garcia, president of the Banning Teachers Association. Teachers plan to return to work Monday, Aug. 13, or earlier if district officials agree to negotiate, Garcia said.

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The “final insult” was the district extending the workday at Nicolet Middle School by one hour without giving teachers information about the move or consulting them, he said. That change was made for the start of the 2017-18 school year, and the teachers union filed an unfair labor practices complaint in September.

That capped two years of battles over student resources, contract issues, salary negotiations, and competitive pay, the union said.

“My hope is that the district will see that what they’re doing is not working and they will force the superintendent to start working with us,” Garcia said. “We have a lot of great ideas to improve the district, but we’re ignored.”

Superintendent Robert Guillen could not immediately be reached Tuesday morning, but Alex Cassadas, president of the Banning Unified School District board, said the district had tried to negotiate but the union had refused to meet.

“We have been blue in the face in terms of trying to come to an agreement,” Cassadas said. “It’s very disheartening that we have to go through this, especially on the child’s first day.”

Cassadas said the hours at Nicolet, the district’s only middle school, were changed to match hours at other district schools and to improve the quality of education there.

Garcia said teachers would be willing to work more if they were compensated, but said adding time to each period wasn’t an effective way to help students.

“I just got test scores,” said Garcia, a teacher at the middle school. “Our test scores went down from last year. There’s an increase in suspension, referrals. It didn’t work.”

Intervention classes would be more likely to help, Garcia said, adding that the new schedule means some students don’t eat until 1 p.m.

The changes and the perception that the superintendent violates their contract has led 20 percent of teachers to quit over the summer, Garcia said.

“I’ve never heard of turnover that high,” he said.

Some teachers have said they will come to school Wednesday despite the strike vote, according to Garcia and Cassadas.

The school board will meet at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7, to discuss the best response to the strike. The meeting was scheduled a week earlier when the union told the district when it would vote on whether to strike, Cassadas said.

The union will also hold an informational meeting beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7, at Farm’s House Restaurant, 6261 Joshua Palmer Way, Banning.

Garcia said he would defer to parents on whether they should send their children to school this week.

“We understand this is going to be an inconvenience and hardship for some of them,” he said. “We want what’s best for students.”

Cassadas said he hoped students would come to school.

The district has 213 teachers and about 4,500 students, according to the California Department of Education.