CALEXICO — Hundreds of people protested outside the Calexico Unified School District office before the regular school board meeting began Thursday, handing out buttons, holding signs and even the Calexico High School cheerleaders performing.
As the school year nears its close and negotiations remain unsettled with the teachers’ union, some saw it as a remaining chance to voice themselves.
“This is one last effort to try and see if we can pressure the board into reasoning with us and seeing if there’s any alternatives,” Associated Calexico Teachers President Enrique Cervantes said.
Many of the 86 teachers who have been pink-slipped carried black flowers in symbolic protest. Negotiations have progressed to fact-finding where a three-member panel will attempt to find a negotiation resolution.
“The way it stands right now, one potential action they can take is to impose on us. … Obviously we don’t have the fact-finding meeting until May 7, and by then we’re talking closer and closer to end of the school year and we’ll have no more opportunity to express ourselves or make ourselves heard,” Cervantes said.
The chanting, passionate crowd became increasingly upset when Calexico fire and police officials announced that the Calexico Unified board room was at maximum capacity and couldn’t allow more inside.
Cervantes said he had e-mailed the district the day before to request the meeting be moved to a larger location. The Calexico Unified board meeting room has a maximum capacity of 85.
As protesters yelled and pounded on the glass window behind her, Calexico Unified board President Ruth Duarte announced to the full room that after the regular student presentations, the meeting would be moved to another location.
Calexico Unified board member Norma Aguilar personally announced to the unhappy crowd outside that many parents of students making presentations had taken a cab or received a ride to the meeting and that was why the board was waiting until after the presentations.
Dool Elementary School kindergarten teacher Sylvia Cano-Travaskiss has been working with the district 23 years and was there in protest Thursday.
She said in previous years, those that have been pink-slipped have been brought back, but this year she doesn’t believe that will happen. She worries about changes to her insurance or pay.
“We go to class and teach the best we can but there’s that black cloud overhead, ‘What will happen?’ Job security is very important,” she said.
Calexico High School English teacher Karla Magallanes felt the same way Thursday. She’s one of the teachers that was pink-slipped this year and said the loss of teachers will be felt throughout the community that she loves.
Magallanes doesn’t see how the district will operate with nearly a fourth of the district’s teachers pink-slipped, and said she’s “disappointed” in the district’s decisions.
Once the meeting moved to William Moreno Junior High School, the 350-plus capacity room soon swelled to standing-room only.
“I think for once this school board is going to realize that the community is truly not playing games like our board president thinks that we are playing,” Cervantes said. “This has gone on too long. We don’t play games, we take the education of our students very seriously.”
Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or email@example.com
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