Both classified staff and teachers in the William S. Hart Union High School District voiced their displeasure with the ongoing negotiations regarding employee pay during Wednesday night’s governing board meeting, saying morale is low across the board for site staff.
Wednesday night’s board room was a mixture of district personnel sporting either a Hart District Teachers Association or California School Employees Association T-shirt, but according to HDTA President John Minkus, the two unions were unified in being “unhappy campers.”
“Our staff is exhausted and demoralized due to the constant change, increased requirements and lack of support,” said Minkus. “Above and beyond the educational part of our job, in the time of this disease, is the constant worry of monitoring the safety protocols.”
The frustration expressed on Wednesday, according to the speakers with both the HDTA and CSEA, stems from the ongoing labor negotiations with the district. The elephant in the room, Minkus said, was staff salary raises, which they say they have not received in a number of years.
Kathy Hefferon, president of CSEA Chapter 349, declined to use her reserved time at the beginning the meeting on Wednesday, saying that she would rather hear from her fellow classified staff employees.
During their speeches, some classified staff members said they had asked the district for a 5% raise, to which administrators countered with an offer of 2%.
“What I will say tonight is I’m finished being handed more work with no additional help, I’m finished not having enough classified staff since no one wants to work for our district, especially if you can make more money elsewhere,” said Debby Gibson, a 30-year classified employee with the district. “Currently we have over 100 classified vacancies. Do you know who’s picking up the slack?”
Gibson said, as recently as this week, she had seen new employees be promised more money per hour than the average classified employee.
“You know my work ethic, you know me, administrators in this district know how I go above and beyond for my job, for my school and for my students,” said Gibson. “Like I said earlier, I’m finished … Mr. (Superintendent Mike) Kuhlman, you’ll have my resignation with my intent to retire in December on your desk next week.”
On Thursday, Board President Cherise Moore said she understood the frustration expressed by staff, and invited them to attend the board’s special meeting/budget study session.
“I don’t know everyone, but I know a lot of (staff members),” said Moore. “And so when I hear stories like the ones from last night, it becomes personal because of those relationships. And it’s tough.”
Moore said staff should attend the meeting so administrators, classified staff and teachers, could work off the same numbers and help brainstorm possible solutions with the budget.
“COVID is hard enough, and I really want us to get to where we need to be, which is not having staff… have to spend so much time worrying about money,” said Moore. “And I know that’s a reality for a lot of people.”
The special board meeting to discuss the budget is scheduled for Sept. 22 at 7:00 p.m.