“All it is is allowing us the right to vote,” said Georgia Rawson, a fifth-grade teacher at McKinley Elementary School. “Before, they had the impression that we just didn’t care (about furlough days).”
The teachers need 311 signatures to entitle union members to take an official vote on furlough days, said West Walker, a North School eighth-grade teacher.
Union president Steve Sievers, who teaches at West High School, said teachers have the right to petition, but he doesn’t think they have 200 signatures.
“The e-mails that I see are from irate members that are upset about this petition,” he said. “They won’t get the numbers. Our people support the leadership.”
Teachers who are behind the petition have put up fliers at Tracy Unified schools and plan to continue to seek signatures as the school year winds down, Walker said.
The petition would allow teachers to vote on taking three or five furlough days next school year, which would equate to a pay freeze for many teachers and also save some teachers’ jobs.
Sievers said a survey of union members found that 60 percent of teachers are willing to consider furlough days, according to the minutes from the March 30 school board meeting. The minutes also indicate that several board members would like to see a deal made with the union for furlough days to save jobs.
In an interview last week, Sievers said the survey numbers are skewed, because several hundred teachers refused to take the survey.
Sievers declined to say whether the union is bargaining with the district for furlough days, but he has said the maximum number of jobs that could be saved is 24.
Sievers said 103 teachers got notices that they might lose their jobs before next school year.
He said the union originally aimed to save 63 jobs with five furlough days, but a deal couldn’t be reached, because the district couldn’t afford it.
“Many, many, many of our teachers are teetering on the brink of financial disasters,” Sievers said. “Saving 24 (jobs) will cause more harm to the remaining 800 (teachers) than it’s worth saving on the 24.”
Walker, one of the teachers who started the petition drive, suggested a forum with union members to debate the pros and cons of furlough days. He has worked for the district since 2006 and could be laid off before next school year because of budget cuts.
“It’s not about losing my job,” Walker said. “It’s about the effect on all of our schools with overcrowded classrooms.”
Rawson, who has worked for the district about 15 years and is not in jeopardy of losing her job, said she could have as many as 35 students in her fifth-grade class next year, a number she called “overwhelming.” She estimated that McKinley could have as many as three combined grade-level classes next school year.
“Education is going to suffer,” Rawson said.
The school district said the number of students in each class will depend on how many students enroll at each school and how they divide out by grade level. Superintendent Jim Franco said kindergarten-through-eighth-grade classes will be capped at 32 students, and high school classes will have a maximum of 35 students.
Sievers said classes with students in multiple grade levels were not originally something the district wanted, but it “isn’t a disaster.”
He said not all students in a grade are on the same level academically, and the district plans to place students with similar skill levels together to make sure they still receive the best education possible.
“It may actually be a possibly more efficient way of educating kids,” he said.
• Contact reporter Jaclyn Hirsch at
830-4269 or email@example.com.