In a letter being delivered to residents in the Riverbank Unified School District, teachers unhappy with the status of the current contract negotiations are taking their case to the public.
“As you may know, about 10 to 20 percent of the teachers in Riverbank are leaving the district,” the letter, addressed to “Dear Riverbank Community” starts out. “They are leaving for a variety of reasons, but mainly because the Riverbank District Office and School Board are not doing their part to keep them here. Other districts are doing things to retain and attract teachers, Riverbank seems set on pushing them away.”
Riverbank Teachers Association President Jim Boling said while many districts lose a teacher or two – and Riverbank usually has that many leave each year due to retirement or accepting positions with other districts – this year’s loss is much higher.
“As for an exact number of teachers leaving ... it is constantly changing as teachers are finding positions ... almost daily,” said Boling. “I only know of two teachers that have turned in retirement papers thus far, so by far ... the vast majority are leaving because of the way they are being treated.”
Boling added that with an estimated 125 teachers in the district, he knows of 12 already that will be leaving for other districts, or roughly 10 percent of the total.
“In years past we might get one or two that leave for another district. Very rare. So more than 10 percent for our small district is pretty substantial,” he said.
The district and teachers association could not reach agreement on a contract and it has gone to impasse, requiring outside assistance to complete the negotiations. Teachers developed the letter as a way to get what they feel is pertinent information out to the city residents. The letter is written in both English and Spanish.
“You may also know that there is a teacher shortage. California is especially hard hit. As teachers leave Riverbank, it is going to be difficult to replace them. Riverbank is simply not competitive with other districts. Any teacher looking for work is only going to choose Riverbank as a last resort,” the letter states.
Boling and teachers association members said they need to see change and are looking for help in achieving that goal.
“The Riverbank teachers are asking the community to join with them to try to communicate with the Riverbank District Office and Riverbank School Board to let them know that the teachers are a valued and necessary part of the Riverbank School System,” notes the letter. “We can’t keep losing good teachers. Our students deserve the best education we can offer. Quality teachers are the only way to make sure that happens.”
Boling said it is disheartening to see that comments from teachers, parents and students at board meetings haven’t seemed to have any effect and some teachers have also had to apply for welfare medical coverage for their children.
Citing other concerns including a large salary increase for administrators and a large reserve in the district budget, Boling and the teachers are asking for residents to contact the school board members as well as the administration.
“A group of parents have already collected more than 200 signatures petitioning the school board to settle the contract with the teachers, but it was ignored by the school board,” states the letter, further asking recipients to get involved on behalf of the teachers. “We are urging you to contact the Superintendent and school board member in your area and let them know that you value the teachers that provide the quality education in Riverbank and to settle the contract with the teachers now. Any further delay will only do more damage than what is already occurring.”