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Photo: Erik Chalhoub
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UPDATE: Teachers respond: Teacher salary data needs clarification

Dozens of teachers within the Gilroy Unified School District have shown up en masse to recent Board of Education meetings, demanding district officials give teachers a raise while also improving students’ experiences.

The Gilroy Teachers Association and district have been negotiating since December, later declaring an impasse and heading into mediation. The mediation meetings did not net an agreement, said Caitlin Madolora, president of the GTA, pushing negotiations into the fact-finding phase.

At issue is salaries, as well as class sizes in elementary schools, according to the union. In addition, the GTA says academic coordinators are forced to be supervisors during brunch, lunch and after school periods, when they should be using that time to meet individually with students.

“It is a best practice to use counselors in a counseling role and not in a disciplinary role as it harms the relationship between them and the students they are tasked to support mentally and academically,” Madolora said. 

Lupita Andrade, an academic coordinator at Gilroy High School, told the Board of Education on Aug. 24 that the supervision time interferes with the counselors’ ability to effectively support their students.

Andrade cited a recent example when she was meeting with a “high need” family to come up with an academic plan for their student.

“The parent was in tears when she was interrupted by the bell and I was supposed to go out and supervise,” she said. “My administrator said to make the family wait the 15 minutes until I got back from brunch supervision. This experience broke my heart as I had to deny the family the dignity of having their story respectfully heard.”

Madolora said the union is proposing smaller class sizes in grades 1 through 3, with 24 students for every teacher. Some elementary class sizes can be as high as 31 students, according to Madolora, making it difficult for students to receive individualized instruction and support.

GTA is also proposing a 15% increase in teacher salaries for the 2022-23 school year, which she says would not only bring it closer to the county average, but also help to retain qualified teachers. The district is offering a 10.5% increase, in addition to a 0.75% increase to cover the rising cost of health benefits.

“Our goals throughout bargaining have been effective learning conditions, student/educator wellness, and recruitment and retention of excellent educators,” Madolora said.

For the 2021-22 school year, GUSD’s certificated teacher salaries ranged from $60,208-$112,675, according to the most recent data available from the California Department of Education. By comparison, salaries of nearby local school districts ranged from $54,616-$116,918 for Morgan Hill Unified, $61,515-$114,597 for San Jose Unified and $64,471-$130,638 for East Side Union High School District.

GUSD’s average salary of $91,690 puts it above Morgan Hill’s $89,709 and San Jose’s $86,433, but it ranks seventh lowest out of the county’s 31 school districts, according to the data.

The Loma Prieta Joint Union School District, which serves 500 students in the Santa Cruz Mountains across two schools, has the lowest average salary at $81,337, while Los Gatos Union Elementary School District has the highest average at $125,996, the data shows.

In a statement, the Gilroy Unified School District said its proposed total compensation bump of 11.25% marks the “highest single-year increase ever offered by the District,” in addition to being the largest salary increase among all the school districts in the county for the 2022-23 school year.

The Classified and Paraeducator bargaining unions reached agreements for the same increase in May, the statement noted.

“The Gilroy Unified School District hopes to reach an agreement with the Gilroy Teachers Association soon,” the statement reads. “We greatly value the teachers and staff of the Gilroy Unified School District.  To that end, the District has increased compensation while managing decreases in the budget due to continued declining enrollment, which is happening throughout the county, state and nation.”

GUSD has seen a decline of 1,285 students since 2016, which includes 230 less students this year compared to last. As a result, the district faces a loss of revenue through the state’s average daily attendance formula.

“Putting it in perspective, the district’s annual budget would include $16.6 million in additional revenue this year alone, that could have been used to support students, had it never experienced the 1,285 enrollment decline,” according to the district.

Madolora said the GTA plans to demonstrate again at the next district board meeting on Sept. 7.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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