Members of the United Teachers of Richmond (UTR) have been advocating since February 2022 for the best resources students deserve, which include a permanent, high-quality certificated educator in every classroom, an emotionally and physically safe learning environment, and responsive student, family and educator input through shared decision-making. Recently, over 200 in-person and 400 online attendees joined UTR’s rally and the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) Board of Education meeting calling for these very demands.
More than 3,000 WCCUSD students started this school year without a certificated classroom educator. Having a permanent, credentialed educator in every classroom is a basic human right for all WCCUSD students. It is imperative that the district recruits and retains qualified educators. While many surrounding districts have settled agreements, WCCUSD falls short of prioritizing competitive wages for those who educate our leaders of tomorrow.
“We cannot have safe and supportive schools without relationships with educators. We cannot have differentiated instruction without proper planning and prep time. We cannot have student-focused Individualized Education Programs if provider workloads have tripled and staffing has decreased.”
– UTR President John Zabala
With historic funding for K-12 education in California, we must invest in our students and schools. Educators cannot succeed if the district does not prioritize teachers, counselors, school psychologists, speech-language pathologists, librarians, nurses, and the support staff that provide the foundation of our schools.
“As an English teacher at Sylvester Greenwood Academy, I’m asking for a raise to support my family. My baby brother went to this school and he’s working on his teaching credential. I would like to be able to tell him when he’s finished that he can come here and support my niece,” said educator Keith Brown at the WCCUSD Board of Education meeting.
Students, families, and educators are the heart and soul of schools. These voices must be centered at all levels of the decision-making process. Additionally, educators should be treated like the professionals they are, which includes prioritizing a robust engagement and collaboration process for all stakeholders so we can uplift the hopes, assets and needs of our beautiful communities.
“I’ve been working in the district for 10 years – this is my community, this is my home, and I had to turn around and take up a second job. As a single parent, I can’t continue to do this. I could barely pay rent. You are disrespecting us; I feel overworked with two jobs. I’m mentally drained, because not only have we stepped into a new world and era, but your pay is leaving us way back in the ages,” said speech-language pathologist Andrea Martinez at the WCCUSD Board of Education meeting.
UTR will continue to advocate for the strongest resources for students because they deserve nothing less than the best. Educators don’t want to strike, but they are prepared to strike if they must.
Photographer credit: Charlie Sedlock, an educator at Grant Elementary School