San Dieguito classified staff salary negotiations continue, district hopes agreement is near

San Dieguito Union High School District classified staff members seek a salary increase.
(Karen Billing)

San Dieguito Union High School District classified employees are rallying to resolve their 2018-19 contract negotiations, again voicing their demands before the school board. Classified employees, who are part of the California School Employees Association (CSEA) union, again filled the board room on Sept. 19, many holding up signs that read: “Equity.”

“We’re not looking for more, we’re only looking for equality,” said April Llamas, an administrative assistant at Sunset Educational Center.

Per the district’s certificated teachers’ contract, teachers must maintain the number one ranking of highest paid educators in the county for salary, while the classified staff has dropped to sixth. The union’s requested 3.25 percent salary increase would bring them to the number one position, Llamas said.

Meeting at the bargaining table with the district over the last several months, CSEA has dropped its initial request for a five percent raise down to 3.25 percent. In response, the district has offered a one percent increase, the same that was given to certificated teachers and administration in March following negotiations with the San Dieguito Faculty Association.

“All we ask for is fairness through equality,” said maintenance worker Sam Flores. ”We all are here because we care, we are concerned, we feel misunderstood and we are understandably upset. Please hear us.”

The board could not respond to the classified staff’s comments before heading into closed session.

“We respect our classified support staff and know the work they do for our classrooms, schools and district is critical for all students to receive a successful education,” said Superintendent Robert Haley after the meeting.

The district and classified staff held a negotiation session the next day on Sept. 20 and Haley said they made significant progress, “We should have a comprehensive agreement completed before the next board meeting.” The next board meeting is scheduled for Oct. 10.

Classified staff at San Dieguito includes paraprofessionals, healthcare professionals, food service, administrative office employees, campus supervisors, transportation and maintenance staff.

“Not only have we fallen to sixth in salary but we are also the only area in which cuts have been made,” said Marielle Bravo-Saltzman, who works in the attendance office at Canyon Crest Academy. “From 2012 to 2018 we have lost 32 classified employees.”

Bravo-Saltzman said job losses have created an inequity of staffing at district school sites and classified employees are “overworked and underpaid.” As an example, she said Earl Warren Middle School has the same number of office staff as Carmel Valley Middle School, however, Earl Warren has around 600 students and Carmel Valley has 1,062 students. She said it’s double amount of work for one person with the same pay.

“Despite the district expanding its facilities, despite it adding more administrators and students, the levels of classified staff have remained the same. We can’t continue to provide the same level of service to students while struggling to feed our own families,” said Matt Colwell, a district network technician and president of California School Employees Association Chapter 241. “Eventually, our students will see the impacts of our overworking. The board could do more for the people who clean the schools, feed the kids and make sure students are safe.”