In Friday’s article, the Vanguard covered the remarks of DTA President Dianna Huculak to the school board, but a few dozen people also spoke on Thursday with dozens more packed into community chambers and spilling into the hallway and the conference room.
A sixth grade teacher at Patwin, in her third year teaching, said she was a rare case of a student teacher who stayed at DJUSD to work in the district. But she said, “To be honest Davis was not my first choice of district.” She said, “While I love my site, I sacrifice a lot to work in this district.”
She said, “Like many DJUSD teachers, I can’t afford to live here so I bought a house to live in Sacramento last year. I brave the causeway each day, giving even more of my time to a district that doesn’t value its teachers.”
The teacher said that this summer she got engaged to a teacher from Sac City. “But instead of getting married next year like we wanted to – we’re getting married in two weeks so that I can join his health insurance because his district just a few miles away offers fully covered health care for him and his spouse.
“The low pay and benefits of this district affects us all in real ways and ultimately has the based effect on our students,” she said.
The teacher then read a statement from a teacher who lives in town with her 12-year-old daughter, a student in our schools. She said that they live in a two-bedroom rented duplex. “My daughter and I must share a room so that we can rent out the other one,” she read. “We’ve been in our rental for six years, if we had to find a new place now, we could not afford Davis. We rarely buy new clothes. We can’t afford a district health plan. I’ve had to find the cheapest plan outside the district that works with our doctor.”
She said that she has a $6000 deductible and that if she put her daughter on the district plan, they would have no money left over.
“As a district employee, the basic needs of my daughter and me should be met so that I can focus on meeting the needs of each of my students – basic needs are the bare minimum,” she said.
The teacher then added, “This statement speaks to the fact that when you undervalue our teachers – our students suffer. We fail to live up to our reputation for providing excellent education when our district doesn’t prioritize our teachers and students. I urge you to move this issue to the top of your priority list.”
Ron Glick pointed out that the district has a year-end balance of 11.9 percent reserve, and, of that, eight percent has not been spent. By law, he said, “the district is required to have a three percent reserve. That means that you have 267 percent of the minimum amount of reserve in the budget. You have it in the bank. You could change board policy and say you don’t need an eight percent budget reserve, you only need a three percent budget reserve.”
He said, “That would free up five percent of your budget, which works out to about $10,000 a teacher. You have the money! Spend it!”
(Editor’s note: while he made a strong statement, I do not believe the reserve end-balance represents ongoing money that could be used to increase teacher salaries on an ongoing basis.)
Ron Glick, a former teacher, said he was in a teachers’ strike once. “The road this district is going down is not a pretty one. People that were friends for years never spoke again. People who were at the top of their game, who had 30 years and were excellent teachers, chose to retire. People that were young and enthusiastic left the district.”
He added, “If you guys don’t reduce the amount of the reserve and spend some of that money on the obvious needs of these teachers you are headed on the road to perdition.”
A retired teacher who taught for 32 years in Vacaville and works with the credentialing department in UC Davis said she and her wife have a senior at Davis High and a 9th grader at Emerson.
“I want to talk about the opportunity costs of not paying your teachers enough money,” she said. She talked about her credentials and said, “I think I would have been a real asset to Davis Joint
Unified, but I didn’t want to teach here. Why? Because I couldn’t afford to. I can barely afford to live here much less teach here.”
The opportunity cost she was talking about has to do with her work in the social science department at UC Davis. “They have put out some excellent teachers… I have placed over 16 social studies teachers in Vacaville Unified School District… We do not consider Davis Joint Unified when we look at to place a teacher in a district. We don’t consider Davis first because you don’t respect them enough to pay them what they’re worth.”
Brian Williams said he was not impressed with the response by the district to the teacher compensation issue, “going out and asking all of us in the public to submit ideas does not really strike me as leadership from the school district.” Those in the community have not studied the intricacies of school finance.
“It doesn’t come across to me as a really serious effort to try to find solutions,” he said. “My general impression is that the district is prioritizing maintaining programs over actually paying the staff. Programs are great, they’re important, we value them, but the foundation of our good programs is qualified quality teachers and the staff to support them.”
Another parent said, “I demand that you work immediately to secure a contract with our teachers.” She argued, “They deserve better and we’re here to demand that they get it.”
She said that our teachers must be the first priority in the budget. “I will not vote for facility improvements or special programs until our teachers have a secure contract with a better wage. And I will not vote to reelect any school board member who delays or blocks a contract with a better wage.
“Securing a contract for our teachers should not be a political fight,” she continued. “But if comes to taking sides, I’m with the teachers.”
She argued that the three percent salary increases for the Superintendent and other high-ranking members of the district should not be paid. “According to the district website the Superintendent must have a satisfactory or better evaluation in order to receive his raise. I do not believe he has done a satisfactory job this academic year. Our teachers have no contract – that’s not satisfactory.”
She noted that her son’s fourth grade class has not been taught by a teacher for 31 academic days, and “that’s not satisfactory.”
She said, “Their classroom substitute is paid $90 a day. That works out to minimum wage. With no benefits. That’s not satisfactory. As of today, she’s made approximately $2970.00 for two months of full time work. That is not satisfactory.”
In contrast, the top administrators have averaged over $35,000 for the first two months of school. “That’s more than $100 an hour. That’s more than these substitutes make in a day. That is not satisfactory and I am far from satisfied.”
She said, “If our teachers made salaries that were competitive wages, competitive salaries for the administrators would not be an issue. But as things now stand, the disparity is unacceptable and must be part of the larger conversation.”
Cameron Jones is a first grade teacher at Birch Lane. He takes home $2465 a month in his sixth year on the pay scale, and said he is working on his masters to move along in his step and column. After working seven hours a day teaching, he comes home, plays with his son, and then spends three hours a night working on his master’s degree.
He said, “My parents give me $1000 a month and we still can’t make ends meet in Davis.” He said a one-bedroom apartment was $1050 a month plus utilities. It was, at that time, more than half his take pay (he made $2000 a month previously). “You are not paying teachers enough to live.”
He continued, “I buy my clothes at Goodwill, Walmart. I do my grocery shopping at Grocery Outlet. And we still don’t make ends meet at the end of the month without my parents giving me money.”
Mr. Jones said, “It’s the epitome of white privilege, but it’s the only reason I can help Davis be inclusive and make sure everyone belongs.
“The rubber meets the road in the school district with the teachers,” he said. He said he’s interviewed elsewhere and has an offer pending on the table elsewhere. He said West Sac is hiring and he would take home $600 more a month. “Where’s my motivation to stay?”
He said, “I love Davis.” He said, “This is what I want to do and you guys are making it so that I can’t. This is probably my last year in Davis.”
—David M. Greenwald reporting