At Aldama Street School in Highland Park, Yolanda Silva’s kindergarten students were in a festive mood Tuesday, making paper Halloween spiders. The children appeared oblivious to the tension Silva said she was feeling as one of many Los Angeles Unified School District teachers honoring a union boycott of some school duties.
“You definitely feel a pressure,” said Silva, who has been a teacher for two years. "(The boycott) is something none of us want to do. We’re just trying to look out for what is best for all of us--and the kids.”
United Teachers-Los Angeles, the union representing the district’s 32,000 teachers, has asked teachers not to carry out some of their usual tasks, such as holding parent conferences, completing attendance records and turning in student progress reports, until a contract dispute with the district has been settled. The boycott escalated last week after the union rejected a three-year contract offer from the district. This week, the district raised the stakes by threatening to dock the pay of teachers who participate in the boycott during school hours.
At three district schools Tuesday, the degree to which teachers were following the boycott varied considerably. Most students barely seemed aware of any difference in their teachers. Principals seemed to be feeling the brunt of the union action.
At Aldama, for example, teachers refused to perform yard duty during recess, which meant that Principal Allyn Shapiro was doing it instead. Teachers were also withholding lesson plans from the principal and not attending any school or faculty meetings. They also did not turn in completed student attendance records due last Friday--a chore they decided to leave to the main office staff.
On the other hand, Aldama’s teachers did hold after-school parent conferences last week, with many teachers staying until 4 p.m. to fit all of their meetings in, even though the union has asked teachers to shirk such unpaid, after-school duties.
“The teachers were fabulous,” Shapiro said. “On that issue, they chose not to follow the union lead.”
At Ann Street School north of Chinatown, teachers are boycotting after-school meetings and next week will begin to shun recess duty, said Mike Cherry, a sixth-grade teacher who also serves as the school’s union representative. The district’s warning about docking the pay of teachers who participate in certain actions--relayed in a letter from Supt. Leonard Britton and delivered to schools Monday--"is not having any effect on teachers,” Cherry said.
Not Here ‘to Baby-Sit’
Teachers at John B. Monlux School in North Hollywood were also turning down recess duty. Yunghi Park, Naomi Yamagata and Patty Ballard said they did not miss that task. “We’re here to teach, not to baby-sit and police the kids,” Yamagata said.
“The main issue,” said Ballard, who teaches kindergarten, “is that teachers don’t feel we’re treated as professionals. . . . I have a friend who has a BA in computer science and started out (in business) making $40,000" a year, compared to the $23,000 beginning teachers earn. “We have to go to school beyond a bachelor’s (degree) to be a teacher and we have to take classes continuously. It’s depressing. That’s why we’re doing this (boycott).”
Monlux students Ulises Gonzalez, 12, and Kaivan Harouni, 10, said they were unaware of the boycott and had noticed no difference in the way their teachers were doing their jobs.
But, said Ulises, “Teachers should get paid more. They work hard for us.”