GLENDALE — After weeks of campaigning against planned lay-offs, about 70 parents and students from across the Glendale Unified on Wednesday protested outside the teachers union headquarters against what organizers said was poor leadership and short-sightedness.
Last week, the union executive board voted to cancel a third mediation session and move straight to fact-finding, where a neutral arbiter will review the data and produce an advisory report. The process could last through August, and could end days before school begins.
"We want them to know their parent community is very unhappy they are not willing to cooperate and negotiate and get this settled," Linda Guzik said. "From the parent standpoint, it seems ridiculous to not know what's behind door No. 3 before deciding they don't want what's behind the door."
Parents were planning to demonstrate outside school district offices Thursday, but changed the venue when the Glendale Teachers Assn. canceled a bargaining meeting scheduled for the same day.
"I see no reason to not see what the district has to offer," said Lee Yamashiro, a Glenoaks Elementary School parent. "If [the teachers] say no, all they have to do is contact us and explain why, but they can't do that without at least seeing what they have to offer."
The parent protest was a new water mark in the ongoing dispute between the union and the school board, which dates back to last summer. While parents have joined protests organized by the Glendale Teachers Assn. rallies in March and May, the rally on Thursday was independently set up through Facebook, Guzik said.
"That was just a page I started to let them know what's happening with financial landscape, how the district is making cuts to the budget, what's going on with the union and their contract negotiations," she said. "So many people are frustrated."
At the rally, Glendale Teachers Assn. President Tami Carlson distributed a timeline that began in March 2009 with district officials informing the community they could withstand the state budget crisis for three years.
State law requires board members to submit balanced budgets every year for three consecutive years, but Glendale Unified projects a $21.8 million deficit by July 2013.
"Our ultimate goal is to provide financial stability and bring back teachers' jobs, but we can't do that without health care containment," school board President Greg Krikorian said.
Teachers representatives are not expected to negotiate before fact-finding begins July 16, when a neutral arbiter can sift through all the data and potentially expose the district's misinformation.
"The community will know we're telling the truth," Carlson said. "I know they are frustrated as we are, and everyone wants it resolved."
Parents made T-shirts reading "24 to 1 is better for everyone," a reference to a district proposal to keep kindergarten and first-grade class sizes at 24 students per teacher next year.
The scenario was withdrawn after the teachers rejected a tentative contract by more than 170 votes last month.
Parents marched along the sidewalk and families lined the median along Verdugo Road chanting, "Cooperate, negotiate, is not a waste of time." They held posters with the names and faces of teachers who after up to seven years at the district will likely be out of a job.
"People are sad," said Ryan Kataoka, a third-grader at Glenoaks. "They are getting laid off because there's not enough money to support everything."