Education

Lucia Mar teachers, picket signs in hand, take to the streets

Teachers from Ocean View Elementary School in Arroyo Grande hold signs calling for a new contract agreement with the Lucia Mar school district during a rally in March 2015.
Teachers from Ocean View Elementary School in Arroyo Grande hold signs calling for a new contract agreement with the Lucia Mar school district during a rally in March 2015. sprovost@thetribunenews.com

Correction: An earlier version of this story should have attributed information about Lucia Mar's strike plan to Superintendent Jim Hogeboom.

Teachers seeking a better contract from Lucia Mar Unified School District were out before the start of classes Tuesday in Arroyo Grande, holding signs and receiving honks of support from passing motorists.

The contract between the district and the teachers association expired June 30, and the two sides have been unable to reach an agreement on a new one. The union is seeking a 10 percent raise, while the district has offered 2 percent.

About 17 faculty members from Ocean View Elementary School stood on three corners at Oak Park Boulevard and El Camino Real, just west of Highway 101, from 7:30 to 8 a.m. Tuesday and planned to be back out on the street after school, as well.

“This is our last push,” said picket captain Kathy Minck, a 29-year veteran of the district. “Next week is when our fact-finder’s report comes out, which is the last step before we can take a strike vote. “

That vote, she said, would come March 26 if the fact-finding and mediation process failed to result in a contract agreement. Fact-finding began Feb. 27, and a mediation session is scheduled for March 25.

Teachers picketing Tuesday morning carried signs bearing messages such as “Settle The Contract” and “Your children deserve the best.” Organizers said they planned to continue their public picketing Friday and all next week, with teachers from other district schools also taking to the streets.

Minck said teachers have been asking that the district reduce class sizes and retain classes in physical education and the arts. She added that the district’s pay schedule was lower than those in adjacent districts, and that instructors were leaving or declining to work at Lucia Mar as a result.

“We’ve never even gotten close to considering something like this in the 29 years I’ve been in the district,” Minck said. “But we think that the situation where teachers are not coming here and teachers are leaving the district is dire, so we’re making a stand.”

The Lucia Mar district serves the South County. Its average teacher salary during the 2013-14 school year was $62,800, according to data from the California Department of Education and compiled by The Sacramento Bee. That compares to an average of $71,525 in San Luis Coastal Unified School District to the north.

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The Lucia Mar school board voted March 10 to hire a collective bargaining consultant to prepare for a possible strike and is paying James C. Whitlock $155 an hour for his services.

Lucia Mar Superintendent Jim Hogeboom said the district is currently in the process of forming its strike plan, which could have administrators back in the classrooms teaching, along with groups of substitute teachers. Several classes would also need to be combined to make up for a fewer number of educators.

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