Teachers on strike picket on Banning’s first day of school

Teachers on strike picket on Banning’s first day of school

The first day of school usually includes children in new shoes and clothes greeted by smiling teachers. At Banning’s Nicolet Middle School, children were greeted Wednesday, Aug. 8, by teachers carrying picket signs.

Banning’s first day of the 2018-19 school year was also the first day of a three-day strike called by the Banning Teachers Association, which has battled the administration over salary and other issues for at least two years.

Teachers strike outside Nicolet Middle School in Banning on the first day of school. pic.twitter.com/vyGRTZ0FLi

— Jennifer Maher (@JCMaherPhoto) August 8, 2018

Wearing red shirts and chanting on a muggy morning, about 80 teachers from across the Banning Unified School District expressed dissatisfaction with Superintendent Robert Guillen.

“We’re trying to make education in Banning better,” Banning Teachers Association President Anthony Garcia said. “We want to be treated with dignity and respect. We want him to follow our contract.”

Sign up for The Localist, our daily email newsletter with handpicked stories relevant to where you live. Subscribe here.

The school board met until almost 11 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7, seeking a solution.

“We attempted to continue meeting with (the) BTA rep to resolve the issue,” board President Alex Cassadas wrote in a late-night text message. “However, we tried to reach them again (after) they had left and would not answer our calls. We gave direction to (the) superintendent to continue to meet with BTA and resolve the issue.”

School district officials could not be immediately reached Wednesday for comment.

Cassadas said Wednesday morning that he was disappointed a settlement couldn’t be reached.

“There’s no excuse to use students as a bargaining chip,” he said.

The tipping point for the union was last year’s addition of an extra hour of instruction at Nicolet, which members say was imposed without input and compensation.

The district said the extra hour aligned Nicolet, the districts only middle school, with other Banning campuses.

Nicolet Middle School teacher Sofia Garcia pickets on the first day of school in Banning on Wednesday, Aug. 8. (Photo by Craig Shultz, staff)

On Wednesday, parents expressed support for teachers as they brought their children to school.

Gonzalo Garcia criticized district administrators after dropping off his eighth-grade son.

“They don’t do the job they’re supposed to do,” he said. “We need to take care of our kids and work together.”

Guillermina Rodriguez said she wasn’t aware there would be a strike when she dropped off her son for his first day of middle school.

“Whatever they’re doing for students is good,” she said. “Hopefully they accomplish what they’re here to do.”