Dressed in matching red and white t-shirts and displaying large signs, a large contingent of Folsom-Cordova Unified School District (FCUSD) teachers assembled outside and inside of the monthly FCUSD Board of Directors meeting Thursday evening to express their concerns of inadequate pay and the prolonged talks and negotiations regarding the issue.
“They are in closed session right now and we want to make sure they hear our voices loud and clear,” said Folsom Cordova Education Association President Jeannette Sansenbach, as she took the time to speak with media at the rally regarding the amount of the most recent pay increases at the FCUSD that are approximately four percent less than the amount they have been asking for.
“This year was 2% percent and they didn’t say anything about next year. Our counter offer was 6.22 percent with 3 percent next year,” added Sansenbach.”
Arriving prior to the public session of Thursday’s meeting, the group made their presence known visibly and verbally. While the board began its monthly meeting in closed session, the group repeatedly marched around and stood outside, chanting in an orderly fashion that, “2 percent was not enough.”
Once the closed session concluded , the group relocated into the meeting chambers, nearly filling it to capacity with many of them sitting on the floor. As the meeting proceeded, several teachers addressed the board, citing a number of reasons their compensation is not enough, from packed classrooms and inadequate staff levels resulting in additional job duties and hours, insurance expenses, meeting the challenges of inflation and other issues. They believe that many of these challenges are also hindering staffing levels as the pay rate is, “not attractive,” to recruit prospective teachers.
“There’s a lot of fatigue, even coming back from the pandemic we’ve had to do more than we have ever been asked to do,” cited teacher Tony Ruiz. we are constantly taking on more responsibilities.”
The contract discussions have been an ongoing issue between the teachers and the FCUSD board have been ongoing for nearly 18 months now. From the teachers’ perspective, the process is taking too long. In the wake of Thursday’s rally, the FCUSD issued a statement to media in attendance.
“Folsom Cordova Unified School District values our teachers and staff and is working diligently with our labor partners to find a financial solution that is fair to all and prioritizes student needs and success,” read the statement.
The two parties were scheduled to meet on the matter once again on Nov. 8. While the teachers look for a pay-rate they feel is fair and competitive, the district is juggling financial options and how to meet the challenges of both the district and the teachers, which they cited in Thursday’s media statement.
“The district has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure that any offer is financially sound as we look at current and future state and federal budgets, economic issues, operational costs, and the district’s current financial status,” continued the statement issued by the FCUSD.
The Nov. 8 meeting was scheduled to include both the school board and the FCEA. Much like the district, the FCEA has issued a statement as well, highlighting their two main concerns which is posted on their organization website.
“Students in FCUSD deserve the best. Teachers, nurses, counselors (all FCEA members) are devoted to taking care of students’ needs. We need a strong salary offer that respects our work to recruit and retain the BEST staff for our students,” continued their statement. “FCUSD likes to tell us how much the respect and appreciate us. If they mean it, then their actions need to match their words.
When budgeting, they need to set aside a reasonable amount of the annual increases from the state budgeting process to pay the front line people (FCEA) at the start of the budgeting process, instead of being treated as an afterthought year after year. It’s time for FCUSD to prioritize classroom staff.’
In addition to staffing budgets, the FCUSD is also faced with finding solutions to fully fund the construction of its future facilities. With rising construction costs and overall inflation also being a factor, Measure M funds are estimated to fall short to complete the proposed campus sites as planned ahead. (See previous article.) This topic will be further reviewed and discussed in the next several months as a separate topic from the staffing.
Folsom Times photos/video by Bryan Greenwalt