They held two informational pickets, one at the district office, and one in front of MLK Middle School. The school board held its regularly scheduled meeting at the MLK cafeteria to accommodate a larger crowd. Hundreds of educators used those pickets to make their intentions clear and their voices heard.
Madera Unified School District leaders say they're at a stalemate. Negotiations with the Madera Unified Teacher's Association are at a stalemate, and have been since October of 2012. Negotiations have failed. Educators claim they're being disrespected, and they're only after a fair contract.
Hundreds of teachers, counselors, librarians and parents packed the MLK cafeteria on Tuesday night. During public comment, one teacher said, "Your personal responsibility that you've brought to this district, you will shatter this district. A strike will destroy this district."
Dozens of educators told members of the school board about everything they've given up. There's been 14 non paid furlough days and they've gone without salary increases for more than 5 years.
Rhonda Pearce says it's personal. "I've received a pink slip every year on or about March the 15th and as a result of receiving those pink slips I lost my house."
Laura Donnelly, a 3rd grade teacher says, in her 32 years of teaching, she's never seen it quite this bad. "There used to be a feeling of camaraderie and cooperation between the district office if there was decisions to be made we had teacher committees and we worked together."
Donnelly says the district refuses to negotiate. Madera Unified directed members of the media and public towards its website, where it's provided a link for "2012-2013 MUSD Negotiations Update'. The district said, "This year the district is in deficit spending - spending more than we are receiving. The inability of the district to contain costs in some formal manner is at the heart of the present stalemate."
School leaders say it's about health benefits and escalating costs, which come out of it's already stressed general fund. Madera teachers collectively say it's not about a raise, it's about standing up for what they're owed and it's about what they do for students.
Rhonda Pearce said, "I love the kids I teach. We teach such a special group of kids who don't have a chance anywhere else."
School leaders say they pay more than $14 thousand in benefits per employee, per year. A third party mediator is analyzing both sides of this situation and should have a report done within the month.