Union rally draws striking teachers

Teachers on strike (SEAN LARA/LARIAT STAFF)

Natalie Hanks and Monserrath Rodriquez

Chanting of “we are the teachers – mighty, mighty teachers” filled the Saddleback College gymnasium Monday as instructors from local high schools were joined by Saddleback faculty to help increase the voice of the displaced teachers hailing district-wide.

Since last Wednesday teachers have dropped their chalk and hit the picket lines. Yielding signs reading, “pay teachers not lawyers” and “I’d rather be teaching,” signaling that these instructors are prepared for the long haul.

Speakers at the rally assured the crowd that negotiations are in the works and that a settlement is possible.

“This is about not having agendas, it’s caring about students and their education,” Gina Poteet, 51, English said. “This issue isn’t just about teacher’s salary, it’s about community awareness.”

Teachers are fighting against the permanent 10 percent cut in pay imposed by the school district. The teachers currently on strike were content with the once temporary cut in pay but when the district made it indefinite, teachers all around the school district went up in arms.

“Teachers are being disrespected,” Rich Polk, political science teacher at Tesoro High School said. “This was a great idea to get teachers together and raise morale. We need to stay strong, stay together. We have the community behind us and supporting us.”
Along with protesting in front of the school district office and in various places throughout the area, teachers are also petitioning to get two board members recalled. Teachers feel that it is unfair to bridge the budget gap by cutting salaries when the new administration building cost the district $35 million.

Among the crowd of cheering teachers, news reporters and live music were students from local high schools showing support on their “day off.” The stands were sprinkled with banners declaring support for the teachers.

Holding a sign reading “board-erline crazy” was Aliso Niguel High School student Ragy Stefan. Even on his “day off” Stefan and a friend showed solidarity to their teachers.
“They support us in the classrooms,” said Stefan of his attendance at the rally. “This affects them drastically.”

Even though the union is uncertain if a resolution is near, teachers remain optimistic.
Echoing this sentiment was Nolan Fossum, math teacher at San Juan Hills High School. “Hopefully we can get back to the classrooms soon.”