Although it has been delayed until at least Monday, there remains a chance that the Los Angeles teachers union will strike against its school district. This would be the second strike but the first since a nine-day stoppage in 1989.
As Jayme Allsman, president of the Hart District Teachers Association, watches from a distance, she said she feels bad for what United Teachers Los Angeles must do in its fight with the Los Angeles Unified School District.
At the same time, she’s happy it isn’t happening here.
“I’m grateful for the district I work in,” she said.
And both sides, HDTA and the William S. Hart Union High School District, work hard to ensure it never does.
“We’ve all worked cohesively to maintain the quality of education,” board member Steve Sturgeon said, “and if that’s the focus on both sides, that’s where it’s going.”
In talking to Allsman as well as two district board members, it is evident that there is better communication and mutual respect here that doesn’t exist farther south.
“We work hard to maintain open lines of communication,” she said.
Allsman says district recognizes the value of the teachers. Sturgeon says that’s why the district works so hard on teacher retention. Nobody disputes the budget numbers or salary concerns.
The current standoff between UTLA and LAUSD centers on money and class size, but various news accounts make it clear the sides don’t trust each other.
Meanwhile, HDTA and the Hart district agreed last year to a 2 percent one-time pay increase and an ongoing 1 percent raise, Allsman said.
“They sit down at the table, the (budget) numbers are transparent, and we work together. It’s a win-win,” Sturgeon said.
Why does it work so well here? Why the mutual respect and desire to work together?
“We have teachers that give a crap, that care about the kids,” board member Joe Messina said. “It’s not always about the money. Do the teachers care? Do they do their jobs? It makes it easier for the board to give raises if you do your job.”
And it’s easier to do your job if you are a product of the school district in which you teach or if you live locally. Like Allsman, who graduated from Hart, many of HDTA’s teachers attended district schools, and she estimates that between 75 and 80 percent of members live in the city, “so we have a long-time relationship with the district.”
Allsman and Messina also think there’s an advantage to being smaller. Hart has 12 schools, a budget of $247.7 million and a teachers union of about 1,100 members. LAUSD is the second largest district in the nation with 1,147 schools and a $13.7 billion budget; its teachers union comprises some 33,000-35,000 instructors, librarians, nurses and counselors.
“That thing is so big,” Messina said of LAUSD. “East L.A., as opposed to the west San Fernando Valley, it’s a whole different animal.”
The only time Allsman can recall any demonstration was in 1975, when she was a child. Teachers held placards and signs before school, then went into class and taught when the bell rang.
Meanwhile, LAUSD strikes.
“LAUSD: They’re so out of control, this is just hilarious,” Messina said.