First published in the Nov. 4 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.
Frustrated by what they believe is an insufficient contract offer, dozens of San Marino Unified School District’s teachers and staff took to the streets Monday, carrying signs touting their cause and engaging with families as they arrived at campuses during the morning drop-off period at all four of the district’s campuses.
The demonstration marked the next round of negotiations between the SMUSD and the San Marino Teachers Association, the union that represents the certificated educators.
The SMTA was scheduled Tuesday to present its counteroffer to the district. Letitia Aranda, the president of SMTA, said the initial offer came up short.
Aranda said that the union took the unusual step of picketing before making a counteroffer because the SMUSD’s offer “struck a nerve” with the rank and file. “The members were calling and texting and emailing saying ‘we have to do something,’” Aranda said.
The SMUSD offered an on-schedule salary increase of 1.5% effective July 1, 2021, and an off-schedule salary payment of 1.5% for all union members employed as of Sept. 1, 2021, according to a statement by Superintendent Linda de la Torre, who has been in her position for about two weeks. The district has also agreed to revise stipends for special assignments and will negotiate health and welfare benefits once the district receives the new health and benefits rates. De la Torre estimated that would take place in March.
The union has asked the school board to approve equitable compensation for the extra work and personal expenses incurred during the pandemic, when educators adapted to online distance learning.
The new superintendent feels the SMTA should have done its bargaining at the table and not on the picket line.
“While the School District respects the rights of the unit members to communicate with the public outside of the workplace and workday, the District believes these items are best resolved at the bargaining table through negotiation and collaboration,” De la Torre said. “The School District is committed to working with our labor partners to meet the needs of our students and our employees.”
Under the terms of its current agreement, the SMTA is forbidden from holding labor demonstrations during school hours. And until they return to the table, the two sides appear to be far apart.
“I am glad we did it,” Aranda said. “It gave the board and the district an opportunity to understand how passionate our membership is.”