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NLMUSD Teacher Protests Grow Against ‘Unfair Treatment’

 By Kristin Grafft

Upset teachers from the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District hold a protest outside of a Board of Education Meeting this week.  Kristin Grafft Photo

Upset teachers from the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District hold a protest outside of a Board of Education Meeting this week. Kristin Grafft Photo

While Norwalk and La Mirada residents prepare to go to the polls, current school board members are busy facing increasing protests from unhappy district teachers.

On Monday, October 21 a swarm of teachers and their supporters stood outside the boardroom with signs, shouting for better health care coverage and the removal of the poison pill language from their contracts.

Prompted by increasing health care costs—which teachers must cover entirely on their own—they are tired of the “band aids” given out during negotiations. Employees feel like their concerns aren’t being heard and they are being treated unfairly.

Some of the teachers have even begun to take more ‘extreme’ measures to shed light on their unresolved problems.

During the most recent Halloween Parade in La Mirada, three teachers could be seen wearing shirts and wielding signs demanding, “School board members pay your share! Healthy teachers healthy schools!” as they marched right alongside the school board’s float.

More protests are planned for other events as well, said Laura Ancira, the Equity and Human Rights chair for TANLA (Teachers Association of Norwalk La Mirada Area).

“So we do plan on organizing an event, and hopefully, you never know – miracles do happen – we could settle a contract,” said Ancira.

As the school board meeting commenced many of the protestor filed inside the building to make their case more directly to the board members.

First grade teacher Kathy Jo Gutierrez, spoke during the public hearing pleading with the board to “do something for the teachers.”

“I feel so strongly about what is happening to the hardworking teachers of this district and I can no longer sit quietly,” said Gutierrez.

Gutierrez explained that teachers are constantly told to “do it for the kids” despite being faced with more layoffs, more cutbacks, increasing demands for more work and less pay, and increasing health care costs with fewer benefits.

“We have been doing it for the kids. We do it everyday all day. We give 110% because that’s what the kids in this district deserve.” However, she insisted, now it’s time for the board to do something for the teachers.

Special Education Teacher Tom Taylor spoke directly to Board President Ed Hengler in his comments saying that Hengler has forgotten what the right thing to do is.

“I know this because of the structure that has been allowed to develop under your leadership that effects me everyday,” said Taylor.

Taylor complained about the health care provided and said that teachers have not received a raise since 2007, yet administrators continue to receive raises. “Is that the right thing to do, Ed? I call that an unbalanced approach and a slap in the face of the employees.”

Taylor also brought up the district’s reserve, saying that it is much larger than required and called it “hoarding tax payer dollars.”

“I believe you want to do the right thing. You did the right thing for me. I understand it’s easy to forget with all the politics involved, but the money is available,” concluded Taylor.