SAN LORENZO, Calif. - The San Lorenzo Unified School District had a lot of empty seats in classrooms, from elementary through high school. The district estimated 700 students did not go to class Monday in an organized protest over teacher contracts. Some of them rallied outside school district headquarters.
"I felt like we need to take a stand because these are our teachers," explained PTA President Sonia Sablan, who kept her 4th grade daughter Briseis home from school. "I'm hoping it teachers her to take a stand and fight for, fight for what's right."
Sablan organized the 2-day parent/student sit out through community Facebook pages. It is expected to continue Tuesday. "I'm really scared for the teachers to go on strike," Sablan said. "Who's going to come in the classroom and be with my kids?"
The sit out got the District's attention. Superintendent Fred Brill addressed the crowd who rallied, and later spoke to KTVU.
"Unfortunately we are 42nd in funding at the state level," Brill said. "And that's an issue." San Lorenzo Unified gets approximately $40 a day in funding for each student. With 700 students out Monday, they lost an estimated $28,000. "Of course it's a financial dig," said Brill. "It's certainly not going to put us in a better position to offer increased salary or benefits."
Teachers say they've been in a labor dispute since March. The sticking points are familiar: salary and benefits.
"If you don't have a competitive wage, there aren't going to be any qualified teachers in San Lorenzo," explained Donna Pinkney, President of the San Lorenzo Education Association. Pinkney said the sit out puts teachers in an awkward position. "We would never encourage students to skip class, but we certainly do appreciate the support and sentiment."
Teachers are on the cusp of a strike, in the last step of the legal process to allow them to walk off the job if they don't get a contract. The school superintendent said he's hopeful they can prevent a strike. The earliest teachers could walk out of their classrooms is the end of February.