Angela Swartz/Daily Journal
Teachers stood at the corner of Hallmark Drive and Ralston Avenue in Belmont Thursday to rally for salary increases.
Higher pay was the clear demand of faculty from the Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary School District who gathered with signs to protest at a busy intersection just up the street from the district office just before a board meeting Thursday night.
Negotiations with the Belmont-Redwood Shores Faculty Association, made up of certificated faculty that includes teachers, counselors, psychologists, nurses and speech and language therapists, have gone on since 2012, with teachers and other faculty asking for more money as health care and housing costs rise.
“In the big picture, over the span of 18 months, negotiations haven’t gone well,” said Superintendent Michael Milliken, who took the position last year. “In the short term, I feel as though we’ve made good progress. I’m quite optimistic. Our interest is treating them fairly. … Other districts in the county are able to give their teachers raises, so I can speak to that being an interest of ours. From our perspective it’s about coming to agreement with them with what we can afford.”
About 25 percent of the association members have to work second jobs now to make ends meet, which hurts their total commitment to students, said association President Angela Sveda, who teaches at Ralston Middle School. Teachers are looking for a 4 percent raise and a benefits package, she said. The average teacher salary in the district is $72,440, according to data from the California Department of Education.
“We’re in a tough situation,” Sveda said. “We’ve declared this year the year of the educator. We’re all interested in working together. … I’m hopeful with the new superintendent. We shouldn’t be here, but the community is rallying together to say it’s time.”
The union has created a Change.org pledge to show support for increasing teacher salaries and increases in district benefit contributions. It states teachers in the district haven’t had a raise for about three years, and are paying nearly $11,000 per year of their own money for family health care coverage. A union survey found that around 58 percent of Belmont teachers are struggling now to pay their mortgages and rent costs and 26 percent will be forced to move out of Belmont unless more support is provided.
“We want to be able to focus on our students and not have to have second jobs or commute long distances,” Sveda said. “Some are getting priced out of the area.”
Another Ralston teacher, Michael Bradley, is on the association’s negotiating team said he’s been most frustrated with health care costs draining teachers’ pocketbooks.
“We’ve been working without a contract for a year and a half now,” he said. “Something has to be done. The district has some pretty substantial reserves. The union has made concessions such as raising class sizes.”
Parents also came out to support the teachers, including Estreilla Raddavero, who teaches in the Millbrae Elementary School District and has two children in the Belmont schools.
“The teachers work extremely hard and I’m very proud of our schools,” she said.
Meanwhile, Cipriani Elementary School special education teacher Katie Newsom dressed up her dog Stevie with posters reading, “Bark if you support the our teachers” and brought him to the rally. She said she came out to support the teachers and a potential salary increase.
To view the petition, go to change.org/petitions/supportoureducators. More about the campaign can also be found at facebook.com/brsfa.
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