New Haven Unified school board meeting filled with emotion amid teacher strike

Negotiations are set to resume Wednesday at 11 a.m. as the New Haven Unified School District and the 585-member teachers union try to end a strike that has stretched into a second week. 

With just weeks before the end of students' school year, it is the community being put to the test. There are no easy answers.

Emotions erupted at the school board meeting Tuesday night that was supposed to address the process of districting and electing board members. Members of the New Haven Teachers Association packed the room wearing purple and carrying signs. 

"You say cut back. We say fight back," teachers shouted at one point, drowning out the board members. 

"I can't take it. We have kids that are staying at home. They have nothing to do.  As a working parent I cannot provide daycare every single  day," said one father during the public comment portion of the evening. 

The school board meeting ended abruptly when teachers and parents filled the room and shouted down the board, who eventually left. 

The latest proposal from the teachers' union was for 3.76% and 3.26% annual raises over two years.

The district's Superintendent Arlando Smith, who is slated to depart at the end of the year, was also emotional.

"This is the most amazing district ever. Ever. Those are some wonderful people out there. This is killing us," said Smith.

Smith says funding the teachers' request would require more than $16 million in cuts next year, with possible layoffs and school closures.

The district has proposed a $6 million deal that provides a one-time $3 bonus and a 2% ongoing raise. 
:"To see this split this community like this and to blame the district for the financial situation that the state has put us in is unfair," said Smith, "I love this district. They desrve it. We just don't have it." 

The students are caught in the middle. 

Two seniors came in caps and gowns because their college prep program graduation Wednesday night was cancelled due to the strike. 

"We couldn't have that tonight because of the strike, so we came here cap and gown and showing the board and other teachers and everyone there  that it's affecting us too," said Kelli Gutierrez, a James Logan High School senior. 

"It's really heartbreaking. We had family coming from different cities and friends taking off work," said another senior.