The Bonita Unified School District hired a private security guard to stand watch for two nights at the home of school board member Sharon Scott because she feared for her safety during last month’s teacher strike.
Supt. Duane Dishno said this week that he took the unusual step of hiring protection for Scott after she received “a steady barrage of phone calls” including some from teachers and union officials.
Security officers, who were paid $9.50 an hour, were also hired to patrol the district’s 12 schools in San Dimas and La Verne.
Scott said she was singled out for attention because she was viewed as a swing vote by the teachers’ association. In interviews on the picket lines last month, some teachers speculated that Scott was one of three board members who favor a hard line in negotiations with teachers. Of the three, Scott was considered the most flexible. The two other board members were believed to be sympathetic to the teachers’ position.
Scott said the call that alarmed her was one she received from Sharon Scott-Dowell, an official of the California Teachers Assn., who invited the board member to attend a meeting to discuss changing her position on the salary dispute. Scott-Dowell could not be reached for comment.
“When I told her that we were in the middle of negotiations and I didn’t think it would be appropriate for me to do that, she laughed and said, ‘Well, take down my number and let me know when you’re ready to talk,’ ” Scott said. “I wasn’t sure whether (the statement) carried any threat or not, but the way it was presented to me, there seemed to be an implied threat.”
Dan Harden, president of the Bonita Unified Teachers Assn., believes the hiring of a private guard for Scott’s house was unnecessary.
“It was total overreaction, as was the hiring of security guards throughout the district,” he said. “To leave someone your phone number and tell them to call you should not be construed as a threat. It’s ludicrous to me.”
Although the message conveyed in the phone call may have been ambiguous, Scott noted that former school board members Sue Moran and Roger Campbell had complained of death threats and vandalism during the district’s last salary impasse in March, 1987. Scott added that her La Verne home is in a canyon that is accessible by only one road.
“I live in a very remote area where it’s difficult to get help quickly,” Scott said, adding that she soon realized that the guard was not necessary. “Within a couple of days it was clear that there wasn’t going to be the same trouble there was last year.”
Dishno said the decision to deploy the guard at the board member’s house was “based on an assessment of the individual situation. It’s not something I’ve used in the past.”
The teachers’ association is seeking a 6.2% pay raise, which its leaders say is commensurate with the cost-of-living increase in state financing the district received. District officials maintain that a 3.8% salary increase for the 1988-89 school year approved by the Bonita school board is its “best and final offer.”
Negotiators from the district and the teachers’ association are trying to agree this week on a state-appointed fact finder to recommend a settlement that will resolve the impasse. If they cannot agree, the state Public Employment Relations Board will appoint a fact finder.