Will there be a walkout?

Leoni Gavrielides, Staff Writer

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In these past few weeks, the Fresno Teachers Association and the Fresno Unified School District have been relentlessly meeting trying to hammer out a new contract that pleases both sides. The FTA and district are still in the fact-finding stage.

During the past few weeks, we conducted an unscientific survey of Bullard teachers to see how many of the 106 educators supported the strike. Two-thirds of the ballots were returned and only 5 teachers said they did not support the strike.

One of those in opposition to the strike is English teacher, John Michael De La Cerda. He says he supports much of what the teachers are asking for but cannot get his head wrapped around an actual walkout.

“I understand their reasons but I don’t agree with the way we go about it,” De La Cerda said. “[I]t’s more like I support what we’re asking for, I just don’t agree with this decision; this course of action.”

Scott Hatfield, a science teacher at Bullard, who has been involved with the union for several years, wholeheartedly supports the strike. And because he is part of the executive board for the teachers’ union, he plays a vital role in negotiations.

He explains that the issues being negotiated involve class size, salary, safety and student discipline. “We are asking for changes in the contract [regarding] how class sizes are handled and how safety and discipline [are] handled,” he said. 

Hatfield believes all of the issues benefit students and their families. He’s hoping that fact-finding can bring both sides to agreement before teachers take the drastic action of walking off the job. But, he strongly believes if the district does not negotiate in good faith, teachers have no other alternative than to strike.  

Hatfield continues by saying, “changes in the economy and the cost of living tends to go up so if your salaries doesn’t raise to meet the cost of living, you’re actually losing money”. He continues with explaining that staff are working for less and health-care cost is going up, so they are trying to gain “more money into the benefits”. He explains that the FTA doesn’t only represent teachers but they “represent all of the employees”. 

De La Cerda, who is a nominee for “Teacher of the Year,” is hoping that his colleagues understand his position. His reputation as a collaborative teacher, most likely will be respected by his peers, according to several teachers. He says, “I cannot fathom leaving my students without a highly-qualified teacher in the classroom. I signed on to work with kids, and I believe my students depend on me to do the best job possible.” 

One active union member says, a likely strike could come before the winter break. However according to our interviews, most parents, students and educators are optimistic that an agreement that makes everyone happy perhaps could be the best Christmas present of all!

 

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