Another Report from the Frontlines at CUSD’s Teacher Strike

Teacher Kay Serafini is comforted by sixth-grader Nikki Sadriafter after the teacher was seen crying on the picket line at Carl Hankey K-8 School in Mission Viejo. (Photo courtesy of Tribune Media)

Editor’s note: This is a front line report on today’s CUSD strike from a CUSD teacher; we’re protecting the writer’s identity so the district doesn’t go after this person onc ethe dispute is resolved. We encourage any striking teacher or CUSD parent to comment to this post and tell us what you’re hearing and how you feel about how your CUSD school board is handling this crisis.

-Dan Chmielewski


Attendance on the line was down in some ways, and up in others. Some teachers had their layoff hearings today and couldn’t be there, but on the bright side, several teachers who worked yesterday came out and struck with us today – awesome! Think about that – teachers who are under risk of being laid off are striking. This should indicate just how serious this whole strike is to the future of our profession.

It’s hard walking the line, but we’re still feeling good and spirits overall are high. Several of our teachers were interviewed by TV reporters, plus many teachers from other schools have been on the air.

Several of the scabs were aggressive with their vehicles, one trying to bump striking teachers. You can legally walk across an entryway or driveway without immediately yielding to a vehicle. After all, in driver’s education I was taught that the pedestrian always had the right of way. Some of these strikebreakers need to learn that. Fortunately, no replacement sub (scab) flew into a tirade today and rear ended a parent today, unlike yesterday. We heard through the grapevine that said scab was fired. We were also told that he might be an athletic coach at a local private school. If true, a guy with that temper is the last person who should be working with kids. Way to properly vet your scabs, Board of Trustees.

Attendance is extremely low. Aliso Niguel only had 295 students show up for classes, if you can call them classes. We were told that two other high schools were all but shut down due to lack of attendance.

I’ll give you an example of just how bad it is with our students under the tutelage of these scabs: one student brought in his Xbox, reportedly, and played it in “class.” Apparently, nothing else was going on, so the scab just let it happen. It wasn’t as if the scab could actually teach.

The work packet the kids were given was as bad as advertised. A student showed it to me. They were able to do a crossword puzzle and figure out how to buy a used car, amongst other things. Yeah, and this from a district that told its principals last year to expect a strike? I would love to know which idiot wrote that lesson packet up. Better yet, I would love to watch him or her defend it to the public.

Parent and student support remains super. We’re getting so much free food from them that its becoming embarrassing. Whether one likes the idea of a teacher strike or not, people are becoming very united in their dislike of our Board of Trustees. Passers-by and parents were signing recall petitions like hot cakes.

Two of our trustees (Maddox and Winsten) are up for recall thanks to parent groups, and we’re more than happy to assist! This board is dominated if not controlled by the Education Alliances, and even the less-savvy in the community are (hopefully) starting to catch on. I think they are. I also believe that this board knows that they’re all but gone come the November election and recall; they may attempt to damage public education as much as possible before then, a chilling thought.

The board’s negotiators and CUEA are speaking tonight. At a lunchtime rally, our CUEA president reminded us that this is the first time the union and board negotiators have met in nine months. Nine months. That is truly a telling comment on how intractable this board has been. They declared a bargaining impasse after just six hours of so-called bargaining nine months ago. The truth is, they never intended to negotiate in good faith; it was an, “Our way or the highway approach.”

Everyone wants this labor dispute settled.  Except for the board.

  22 comments for “Another Report from the Frontlines at CUSD’s Teacher Strike

  1. rick
    April 24, 2010 at 12:12 am

    I think that teachers should be grateful to have jobs when the unemployment in California is high. I would like to see a teacher go out and find a job at this time at salary they are receiving with a 10% reduction. IMPOSSIBLE. Your union leader is leading you awry. You will loose more money by striking – but then again…it is about respect – right? not the money.

    Haven’t you heard about the spending that is going on in this state and country. Millions of people would have loved to take a 10% permanent cut than loose their job. Let;s see how long you make it without a pay check. A 10% reduction of something is better than 100% of nothing.

    Good luck.

  2. friend of the blog
    April 24, 2010 at 1:00 am

    Rick: the teachers have already accepted the 10% pay cut for the remainder of the current contract. What they want is for the cut to be temporary rather than permanent.

    What that means is that if the district feels the 10% cut is still necessary after the current contract runs out, they will negotiate it again. Perhaps the economy will improve and it will be possible to restore the salaries, or perhaps the cut can be only 5% or 8% in the next contract.

    That’s how labor negotiations are done. The way this board is negotiating is outrageous and unorthodox, and it amounts to asking the teachers to give up their collective bargaining rights.

  3. April 24, 2010 at 11:37 am

    My children deserve the wonderful teachers who have helped them in Malcolm, Crown Valley, Niguel Hills and Dana Hills. I am willing to pay a decent wage for excellence. I am willing to pay more taxes, I am ready to volunteer more, and I will give more when asked.

    I know times are tough; but, this Board has not been fiscally intelligent. There are 100 other ways to cut costs State wide in education: THE LAST ONE # 101 SHOULD BE IS FOR TEACHERS.
    A noble General does not cut food and shoes for his front line soldiers.

    Ask any successful person in America if they could have achieved greatness without an education? I bet $100 they all recall the Teacher’s name

    C G Barbeau

  4. Irritated
    April 24, 2010 at 11:51 am

    What about all of the programs that have been cut from the schools? If pigs end up flying and the state ends up with a surplus of funding (and IF that actually goes toward education), do teachers expect that surplus to be handed right back to them? No one is thinking about students at the elementary levels. Has anyone been in a classroom with 35 6-8 year-olds? It is chaotic at best and it is unfair to expect that those children can learn with less individual attention. There are SO many programs that have been cut that need to be restored before salaries should be considered….Isn’t this about the children too?

    I think teachers have the most important job in this country…you are educating our future. I know it is a difficult job, and believe you deserve more respect and more credit. However, what are you teaching our kids now? My son had anxiety attacks walking in to school for two days because the teachers were picketing and the classrooms were crazy. Despite our explanations and reassurance that the issues are not about the students, it sure doesn’t feel that way to them.

    And the teachers are asking for parental support…well I am done. I have now missed two days of my own work (without pay, thanks a lot) because my kids are afraid to go to school while their teachers are striking for a semantics change. How about we all decide to use Webster’s Dictionary in order for the legalese BS to get tossed out the window. If everyone is ready to agree, get yourselves back to work and show the children that you care. Otherwise, try to find a better paying job and let people who really care about the kids come and teach.

    And SHAME ON THE BOARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You should all be recalled because this did not have to happen. We don’t need power-hungry business people ruining our future. You will end up with even further disgruntled teachers and our kids will not get the education that they deserve, or that WE ALL pay for. Just wait, when you are 80 and these kids are in the position to make decisions about senior health care, don’t hold your breath for any good will.

    All of you suck………..

  5. April 24, 2010 at 11:55 am

    The economy is not going to produce any deluge of tax receipts for public education any time soon. It’s disingenuous for the union to hide behind that argument.

    They will use categorical fund flexibility as a way to argue for the end of the 10% salary reduction. They will sue the District as soon as the legislature allows for flexibility. Then, the District won’t be able to pay for speical ed, textbook replacement, or adult ed.

  6. Hanson
    April 24, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    The teachers aren’t impressing anyone. What would impress us is if you struck during the summer and took time away from your three-month vacations. It would impress us if you showed some spine, challenged your union and stopped paying $1000 annually in dues that’s used for political purposes — are your bosses taking a 10% cut?. What would impress us is stopping the tired, fallacious “it’s for the children” rhetoric when we know it’s really about your own greed. We’d be impressed if you dropped the “continuing education” claims and realize that everyone in “professional” employment does that on their own time and often at their own expense. We’d also be impressed if you showed some respect and deference to those you’re now calling “scabs” — maybe they’re your neighbors who are tired of paying for people who work all of six hours a day? Maybe the “scabs” just see an opportunity for work that you’re too lazy or arrogant to do. Maybe the “scabs” are part of the 12.6% unemployed in California who think you’ve got a lot of nerve to be complaining when CA teachers are the highest paid in the country? Maybe all of us are tired of paying for your inflated pensions and medical benefits that we never voted for?

    So impress us, you lazy whiny disingenuous pukes.

    • Maela
      April 24, 2010 at 1:14 pm

      Wow, taking the words out of my mouth. Im a CUSD student and agree 100%

    • Dan Chmielewski
      April 24, 2010 at 4:39 pm

      It’s not 6 hours a day; there’s time for preparing lessons, grading papers, administratice stuff required.

      By all means, enter the teaching profession yourself. No one gets rich being a teacher, but what they do do is make a difference. We need people like this.

    • T.Sewell
      April 26, 2010 at 6:57 pm

      First of all, genius,please explain to me how you stop paying union dues that are automatically deducted?
      Second- have you ever seen any other union strike on their own time. No, but no one bitches at them. Just us.
      Third- I have no idea the last time I worked a 6 hr day. I teach a 6 hr day but there is a hell of a lot more that needs to be done. Lets try more 8-10. Plus what I take home every weekend. I have never met a teacher that doesn’t.
      And lastly- let me guess- your a scab?

      And if not, spend a day in our shoes and then tell me what you think.
      And also, would you just let your boss take 10% away from you after you worked so hard to get there?

  7. OC'er
    April 24, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    I can certainly understand the loss of income and the impact on the teachers. Yet, as a parent, I am having a hard time understanding the disproportionate impact on the students with the strike. What have they done to be pulled into the middle of the dispute? Go back to work and deal with it in another way.

  8. Maela
    April 24, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    I am against the teachers 100%. Trying to get me on their side while I was at school. I have now missed two days of school due to this, missed my practice AP Exam. Because of a 10% pay cut. How selfish. The district DOES NOT HAVE THE MONEY to keep paying them their overly high salaries. Doing it for the kids= BS.

    • Dan Chmielewski
      April 24, 2010 at 4:35 pm

      Overly high salaries? You have no idea what you’re talking about.

  9. April 24, 2010 at 5:21 pm

    What does it take to understand that
    This CUSD Board Has an Agenda?
    How about. . .
    Subs being paid $275.00 a day
    as opposed to Our Teachers normal pay of $90.00 a day.
    $100.000.00 going to security guards
    $500.00 an hour going to Special Lawyers for the Board of Trustees.

    And the Board has the nerve to say this is about being fiscally responsible?

    Our Teachers have said they will take the cuts, temporally.
    Good for Them
    They show good Faith.

    This Board has an agenda to Privatize Education with Vouchers and Charters.

    • Irritated
      April 24, 2010 at 8:48 pm

      Who gave you that info, moron? the subs usually get $90 a day, not the teachers. They were probably offered that because of the shit they had to put up with crossing the lines. Where have you been?

      Make sure you know what you’re talking about before you spout off untruths and idiotic statements.

      • Howard be my name
        April 24, 2010 at 9:01 pm

        Irritated: do you kiss your loved ones with that mouth? It’s possible to disagree without being disagreeable, though apparently that’s not a skill you’ve learned.

        As Patsy says, the regular sub pay in CUSD is $90 per day. The pay for subs during the strike is $250.

        The district probably knows that most substitutes will be unwilling to cross a picket line and that they need to pay more in order to attract enough people. As it is they’ve had difficulty and the classrooms are understaffed.

        • Irritated
          April 26, 2010 at 1:25 pm

          Name-calling was not appropriate, you are correct. This is an emotional issue and I typed an emotional response. Rather than thinking before clicking send, I reacted, and for that I am sorry. I actually have learned the skill you mention above, and I am not proud of my comment. PatsyT and everyone, please accept my apology…it is sincere. I just hope this ends soon.

  10. OC'er
    April 24, 2010 at 7:25 pm

    Although generally opposed to Vouchers and Charters, the strike has me rethinking things. Again, the innocent students are the ones hurt with this tactic.

  11. marc
    April 24, 2010 at 10:49 pm

    stupid teachers

  12. Richard
    April 25, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    I was more than aggressively nudged by the car of a teaching aid (identified to me as Barbara Axtell(SP?)) as I was crossing the entrance to Philip Reilly Elementary School on the first day of the strike. Had I not jumped back to avoid the direct hit, it would have been more than a nudge. I saw her mouthing words that I could not hear with an hysterically angry look on her face. An incident report with witnesses was filed. There is a deep anger in the SCAB community. Odd that the SCABs who allow the majority of their peers to fight for them are the angry ones, eh? I suppose there are many psychological playing in their minds. Thankfully, the SCABs represent a mere 10% of the teaching community.

  13. Richard
    April 25, 2010 at 7:56 pm

    Hmmm. Insightful comment. Clearly you were the bright bulb of your class!

    April 26, 2010 at 8:28 pm






  15. John Ex-Supporter
    April 27, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Talk about not knowing what you are talking about- $90 per day for working all of 185 days = $16,650 per year. Look at the real wage schedule of the teachers. CUSD teachers start at over $40,000 per year for 185 days of work. The lowest paid teacher is $250+ per day. The highest paid teacher is $497+ per day. There are police officers that put their lives on the line everyday that make far less than that.

    So when my daughter comes home and tells me that her teacher told the class that this is all about replacing teachers with computers, I have a major problem with the teacher. When I see protest signs stating that \We are holding the line for your kids\. I am just incensed. When the teachers tell the students to show up at the District Office to protest (and by the way free food and games will be waiting) I think that the teachers have shown their true colors. Wake up teachers, the money is not there for your wage schedule. Teachers need to read the news and see the number of people that have received a 100% pay cut on a permanent basis (from their past employer). I have personally been on a 15% pay cut for over a year- and if I strike, I will be looking for another job. Get real teacher! And stop putting false information into the heads of these kids.You have shown your real interest. 10% in your pocket or picket.

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