Thirty years ago, I started teaching in Madera Unified, a school district that was known as a great place to teach. I have enjoyed the years, although as with any job there have been ups and downs. I have to say, though, the current situation in Madera Unified is just embarrassing.
We haven’t been able to keep a superintendent. Our current board seems to be conducting activity that is, at a minimum, reprehensible and quite possibly illegal. Teachers are required to do more with less, while the district has $30 million in reserves.
My classroom is vacuumed twice a week, packed with 28-32 students and I’m expected to get them on grade level. We are teaching with a curriculum that is 12 years old and not based on current teaching research or standards. Advanced learners are put on the back burner as money for the Gifted and Talented program (GATE) is “swept” into the general fund.
The district has decided that teachers should work past their duty day without pay even though, in previous years, we have been fairly compensated for extra work. The district administration and current board have decided teachers in Madera aren’t worthy of the respect necessary to bargain with us in good faith.
We are not asking for a raise, just the status quo. I haven’t had a raise in six years and my salary has decreased because of furlough days. A recent negotiations update from the district stated, “In a deficit mode due to cuts in state and federal spending, the District has no alternative but to join most other districts in the state cost containment measures...” The district may be running in a deficit mode with current funding, but that doesn’t take into account the money in reserve in the bank that can and should be used to support the students and teachers in Madera. The current board brags that we have “healthy” reserve but this reserve has been built on the backs of the children in our city.
Our current contract is expired and teachers are on the verge of a strike. I feel terrible to think that my precious students will miss valuable teaching time because the teachers’ one request for no change to our benefits package has been refused. A strike is a no-win situation. It’s time for the citizens of Madera to demand a positive change in the Madera Unified School District. Our children are worth it!