Protest gets personal

Glendale News Press

NORTH GLENDALE — More than 50 Glendale Unified teachers and community members took part in a candlelight vigil outside school board President Greg Krikorian's home Wednesday evening to protest dozens of possible layoffs.

The demonstration was the latest salvo in a union campaign to pressure school board members to withdraw all 77 teacher pink slips before the final layoff process begins this summer.

It also brought the politics of the district's cost-cutting efforts to Krikorian's doorstep, a move that caused some dissension within the ranks of the Glendale Teachers Assn.

Despite misgivings from some of her colleagues, Tammy Tiber, a fourth-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary School, said she felt the candlelight vigil was appropriate and warranted.

"We're not out here being disruptive or breaking the law," she said. "I think the Glendale Unified school board was wrong to lay off teachers and increase class size. It's detrimental to the students."

Krikorian was home during the vigil and said that was his family's way of condemning the tactics.

"This is a precedent that should be stopped forever," he said.

At a school board meeting on Tuesday, Krikorian said his children had been approached by teachers inappropriately.

"My children were approached twice . . . 'Tell your dad to save my job,'" he said.

Teachers met at Brand Park and walked to Krikorian's home where they stood along the sidewalk quietly, holding candles, for roughly 20 minutes. Prior to the protest, organizers distributed rules asking participants to behave professionally and avoid causing any disruptions in the residential neighborhood.

The Glendale Teachers Assn. has protested during and outside Board of Education meetings in recent months, but some teachers said a vigil might make more enemies than friends.

"When it's in front of a family's house, I know many, many, many teachers are upset about it and feel that it's out of place," said Kim Hughes, a fourth-grade teacher at Columbus Elementary School who will almost certainly lose her job as part of the district's layoff process. "If we were to go to the mall and hand out fliers, it would do more actual good for the cause than burning candles in front of his house."

The vigil was the subject of numerous e-mails obtained by the News-Press, with teachers criticizing each other and their union for taking a labor dispute to a private residence with young children.

Union President Tami Carlson said those e-mails were an overreaction to a peaceful protest.

"[This] was blown out of proportion into something it was not intended to be," she said. "We didn't feel it was as out of the box as some people believe it to be."

Police officers staged a similar vigil outside the home of a Simi Valley City Council member six months ago, said Arleigh Kidd, a regional consultant for the California Teachers Assn.

"A change in venue, a change in tactics to get their attention was called for," he said. "Now they're talking about 24-to-one [class sizes in primary grades] and I don't think that'd be happening were it not for the activism of the parents, teachers and the kids."

Glendale police officers were present, and district officials had warned that they would have security personnel filming the vigil.

"Going to larger class sizes is going to be really negative," said Chris Stanley, a fifth-grade teacher at Jefferson Elementary. "They have the resources to reconsider, but they don't seem to want to."

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