Heated words at Madera school board meeting

MADERA, Calif.

Hundreds of teachers packed the Madera Unified School District Office on Tuesday night.

They read personal letters to board members and described their very personal reasons for wanting the negotiations to continue.

Music teacher Dana Kelly stood at the podium and told the Trustees, "Shame on you for causing such a distraction in the educational process. I really wish we could work together but that's not going to happen."

The entire room clapped as she Kelly expressed her feelings. She said, "I no longer feel valued or respected as an educator, if you really want to support and better our community than you would support and better our schools."

This is the latest attempt from the Madera teachers- aimed at getting the district's attention. The teacher's association and the district stopped talking in October.

A third party is now reviewing both sides, but while they wait for that report, the teachers still want to negotiate.

"This idea of not talking anymore is hard for me to understand," said Linda Tolladay.

Tolladay also said she's never seen things get so heated. "We're working really hard to do the best we can for the kids, it's hard to put kids first when the district puts teachers last."

The district directed Action News to its website, in which a statement was posted in March, citing the rising costs of health benefits as a reason for the impasse.

Teachers say they just want to talk, and they're hoping their personal letters of hardship will make a difference to the trustees.

Strike coordinator David Holder said, "It's within their power, we cannot call the shots, they call the shots, but we're doing everything we can to convince them to come back and meet with our bargaining team and prevent this from escalating."

The third party mediator has been reviewing the issues in Madera for the past few months, and it's likely the process may stretch into the summer- which means there could still be an impasse when school starts in the fall.

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