Davis Teachers Association calls community together

JEREMY DANG / AGGIE

Rallies held around Davis to protest for better wages, benefits

On Jan. 18, the Davis Teachers Association held a rally for better wages and benefits at three major intersections in Davis: 5th and B, Mace and Chiles and Covell and Pole Line. The rallies were attended by teachers working all over the district, from Patwin Elementary to Davis Senior High School. Davis students and parents joined educators as they picketed and rallied.

“We’re concerned about the district compensation gap in that it’s making it very difficult to hire new teachers and retain existing ones,” said Dianna Huculak, a history teacher at Davis Senior High School and the president of the Davis Teachers Association. “It’s bad for our school communities, and we’re looking to promote stability and sustainability for our students. There’s a 3 to 5 percent compensation gap the district has identified throughout the district. We’re asking for 4 percent, and we’re still working on it […] I’m really hopeful that we can close the gap.”

Huculak also emphasized the need for the district to stay competitive in recruiting teachers. She noted that, currently, the district has trouble even retaining teachers, let alone attracting new ones, and that the teacher turnover rate is high, as new teachers aren’t willing to take lower pay and benefits to work in the district. Huculak emphasized that it is the goal of DTA to not only retain more promising teachers, but also to attract more talented teachers to the district and that competitive wages and benefits would be necessary to do so.

“We feel there are some things challenging the ability of the students to be successful, so we felt we needed to be reaching out to the community for them to understand that we are together trying to strive forward,” said Victor Lagunes, a member of the teacher union negotiations team and organizing committee and a teacher at Da Vinci Junior High. “For example, the math department at Davis Senior High School is highly impacted right now. We have teachers teaching six classes instead of five […] Some classes have gone without teachers for months now […] Students aren’t getting the attention they need.”

Lagunes also explained the negotiations process, stating that, while the gap has been identified as around 4 percent, the district has offered lower numbers, like a one-time payment of 1 percent, around $450, and another offer for a 2 percent increase. Negotiations are still going on, but Lagunes and Huculak remain hopeful that the union and district will come to an agreement that will help the students.

In Davis, we have a compensation gap; this is no secret,” said Maria Clayton, a spokeswoman for the Davis Joint Unified School District in an email interview. “Because we value our employees, we are committed to closing this regional compensation gap […] The employee compensation gap is a result of a state funding model that has disadvantaged Davis. We receive below average funding—about 87 percent of the state average for a unified school district. What this means is that we have less money than our regional neighbors to do the things we need to do.”

Clayton also mentioned that DJUSD’s Strategic Plan, which shows its commitment to its employees, can be viewed on its website and that the district board is discussing a parcel tax for the November ballot. The parcel tax might tax Davis residents on multiple items such as rent, housing or power so that more money might become available to the district, teachers and, in turn, the students.

“I could work literally anywhere else and get paid more, but I found a good situation and a good community at my school,” said Jamie Kerr, a fifth-grade teacher at Patwin Elementary and an organizer for DTA. “Like many other Davis teachers, I live 45 minutes away and I drive and commute every day. I’m not alone in that daily commute from far and wide because we can’t afford to live in the community that we work in […] We want to let the district know that we’re serious about establishing and negotiating a fair contract that values the teachers and students.”

 

Written by: Ahash Francis — city@theaggie.org