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The California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) has issued a formal complaint against the Healdsburg Unified School District based on an unfair labor practice charge filed by local teachers.

Last May the Healdsburg Area Teachers Association (HATA) filed an unfair labor practice charge against the school district on behalf of a beloved Healdsburg Junior High math teacher, Greg Costa, who was placed on paid administrative leave three weeks before he was set to retire.  Teachers charged the district management retaliated against Costa for his union activity. Costa and other teachers had voiced concerns about what they perceived as the school principal’s bad management, specifically for disagreeing with the building principal on issues such as teacher recruitment and retention. Costa was put on leave April 26, 2019.

The complaint announcement means PERB agrees that the allegations in the charge, if proven, make out a prima facie claim that the district managers violated the law. “Basically PERB is agreeing that our allegations warrant a hearing before a judge,” said HATA President Ever Flores. There will be a mediation session first. However, if the parties cannot resolve the dispute, a hearing before an Administrative Law judge will be set.

“This hurt students more than anything else,” Flores said.  “A teaching veteran of 30+ years, Mr. Costa taught generations of students.  And to pull him out so unceremoniously when his students needed him to prepare for final exams and state tests… well, the students felt short-changed.” And angry.

May 13, 2019: Healdsburg Junior High students protest district mnagement’s decision to put beloved math teacher Greg Costa on administrative leave in retaliation for union activities.

Some 70 Healdsburg Junior High students walked out of classes May 13 protesting district management’s decision to remove Costa from the classroom. Demanding district administrators bring back the seventh grade math teacher, students chanted “We want Costa” as the mid-morning protest morphed into an hours long march through several Healdsburg neighborhoods.

“As long as this is a problem, it’s not just going to be the parents and adults on your back. There’s going to be an army of 11- to 14-year-olds. You can’t silence us,” Sofia Villa, one of Costa’s students who helped organize the walkout, told the local newspaper. “We want to learn from the best. We all want Mr. Costa back in the classroom.”

“This is a signal to the rest of the rank and file,” Michael Villa said, Sofia Villa’s father. “They came down so hard on this guy, they lost sight of who is really being punished, which is the kids.”

There has been no date set for the mediation.