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Sonoma County educators and parents will join Forestville Teachers Association members as they rally and address the Forestville Union School District (FUSD) school board meeting Thursday, August 8. The rally is at the FUSD offices, 6321 Highway 116 in Forestville and will start at 4 p.m.  East Bay teacher union colleagues say they will attend, too.

Teachers are protesting stall tactics by FUSD management. FTA is set to go on strike over a living wage and health care issues on August 12, the first day of school for educators. Teachers are frustrated by district management’s lack of response to their invitations to negotiate.  “We’d much rather be spending our time preparing for a successful school year than preparing for a strike,” said FTA President Gina Graziano.  “We don’t want to strike, but we will for our students.”

The two sides have been negotiating for two years and the current contract expired June 30. The FUSD bargaining team came to the last negotiations session on July 24 without the authority to make an agreement. FTA has been prepared to meet since July 24 and received no word from FUSD school board or management. “There is no reasonable rationale for not responding for two weeks,” said Graziano. 

After an August 5 closed school board meeting FTA Bargaining Co-Chair Ryan Strauss asked again about a time to negotiate. Management’s response was “we’ll email you. They’re not sure when they can all meet? It is frustrating because their actions do not match their words,” he said. FTA leaders wonder if the district is getting bad advice from the hired attorney.

The August 8 “Storm the Board” event is yet another attempt by teachers to avert a strike. “We want a fair contract that attracts and retains the best teachers for our students,” Strauss said. “This district can afford our proposal. It’s time for this district to invest public money in students and teachers. This is about a better future for our schools and our community, and about a district that seems to be indifferent to both. Many teachers are leaving for better-paying districts and that has to stop. Our students and teachers deserve better.”

First-grade teacher Noelle Huberty agreed. She says she doesn’t want to go on strike, but families and teachers cannot afford to be left behind. “There have been times we have chosen to not go to the doctor to avoid the extra expense. There have been times when we had to go into debt because we couldn’t afford daycare for our kids.  There have been times when I have purchased things for my classroom because my students needed it and I have gone without.  We are just trying to make it in Sonoma County. I continue to put my students first, but I cannot put myself and my family last.”

“I continue to put my students first, but I cannot put myself and my family last.”

Noelle Huberty

FTA’s last proposal includes a 5% salary increase “on the salary schedule,” which means compensation will count for retirement, for a two-year contract. FTA also proposed language suggested by a neutral factfinding regarding health care. This in response to FUSD management’s proposal that included an “off-schedule” salary hike, or bonus, diminished health care coverage and no retroactive pay, thus penalizing teachers for the FUSD management’s inability to come to an agreement.