Dozens of teachers poured out of a meeting at Hoover High School Monday morning, dressed in black, a sign of mourning they said, over the district's unwillingness to work towards a reasonable new contract.
"Today is black Monday. The teachers at Fresno Unified are wearing black to support our FTA negotiating team as we try to settle issues on the table between our administration and our teachers for our contract," FTA rep. for Robertson Elementary Maryann Gullihur said.
The Fresno Teachers Association says its 3,800 members have been working without a contract since last May. Union leadership has returned to the bargaining table 19 times in an attempt to negotiate.
"From the teacher's perspective, they gave up salary in years past, they froze their schedule, they helped the district get through some tough times and now that the money is better in the state there are some catchup that needs to be done," Rhonnie Tinsley with the Fresno Teachers Association said.
Bullard High School science teacher Scott Hatfield says it's been six years since teachers have received a cost of living increase. The proposal the district pitched back in October would extend class days by 30 minutes at certain schools raise salaries by 2.5 percent and lower class sizes in kindergarten through third grade. But he believes it doesn't do enough at the middle and high school levels.
"The bottom line is we think quality teaching means more individual time between instructor and student and as you start loading more kids into sections of classes it becomes more and more difficult to give that one-on-one that can really make a difference in the life of a kid," Hatfield said.
In a statement Fresno Unified said: "Not only has FTA doubled the cost of the district's $71 million offer, FTA proposes to spend over $112 million in salaries and benefits alone."
The two sides will meet again on February 13th.