Parents Hold Sit-In at Sacramento City Unified Headquarters to Support Striking Teachers and Staff

While schools in the City of Sacramento Unified School District were still closed Friday due to continued strike action by teachers, nurses, bus drivers and other district staff, it didn’t prevented district parents from having a family day — outside District Superintendent Jorge A. Aguilar’s Serna Center Office.

The family day is part of a longer sit-in that parents like Amber Verdugo have been organizing since Wednesday night, the sixth day of the staff strike. Later Friday night, they plan to host a movie night and have launched an Instagram and Facebook page for exposure.

“We’re just saying clearly, it’s the people who are affected, these kids here,” said Verdugo, whose two sons attend AM Winn Elementary. “Schools are supposed to serve these kids, and I feel like the school board and Aguilar have forgotten what their purpose is. So I thought, let’s put it right in front of them.

Visitors to the second floor of the District Center may have inadvertently participated in a game of Throw Throw Burrito. Or catch an intermittent game of Twister.

But even if a kid or two has rushed up the stairs to grab a foam burrito that’s gone too far, the first thing that floats downstairs is the noise: guitar playing mingles with parents talking and kids laugh and run around.

Two unions representing district staff, the Sacramento City Teachers Association and SEIU Local 1021, went on strike March 23. Union leadership says staff are on strike due to the district’s handling of a staff shortage that leaves them overworked, underpaid and in conditions that put them at even greater risk of COVID-19.

The two unions are currently in negotiations with the district. On Thursday, six of the eight members of the SCUSD board signed a letter sent to the leadership of the teachers’ union asking them to call off the strike so that schools can reopen while negotiations continue.

“Because collective agreements have lasting impacts on our district and on our employees, it takes time to properly define concepts and language,” the letter states. “We know both sides want a quick resolution, but it’s been seven days of school missed. We can’t afford to be stuck like this, we’re all hurting.

SCUSD parent company Amber Verdugo stands on the second floor of the District Office during a sit-in on Friday, April 1, 2022.Andrew Nixon / CapRadio

But Verdugo does not plan to leave until the district has signed an agreement with the two unions.

She is also a student of history at Sacramento State, which focuses on protests and revolution. Protest sit-ins have been one of the most effective forms of nonviolent protest, according to Verdugo, which is why she suggested a sit-in Wednesday to several parents she knew.

“I said, ‘Who just wants to come in and sit in those chairs and not move until something happens? “, She said. “So at five o’clock on Wednesday afternoon, we showed up at the time of the assembly – the front doors were locked, but we waited for an opportunity to sneak in and turn up. here. We have been here ever since.

Russell Taylor, whose wife has taught in the district for more than 19 years, also has no plans to leave the second floor of the Serna Center. Taylor, his wife and son — also a student at SCUSD — arrived at 2 p.m. Thursday.

“We wanted to create a way to make the presence of parents and children known to the district,” he said. “My whole family spent six or seven days on the picket line. And, you know, I was just frustrated with the district’s lack of action.

Whatever deal the district reaches with the teachers’ union could have a big impact on Taylor’s health care, another reason he’s on the sit-in. The district’s current proposal would cover 100% of the costs of a HealthNet plan, which Taylor says better covers her family’s needs, for 2022-23 and 50% of the disbursements for the following year.

SCUSD plans to switch to Kaiser as the primary health care provider to help balance its budget, as the district remains under the fiscal watch of the Sacramento County Office of Education after it was nearly taken over by the state in 2019.

Currently, about 43% of SCTA members use HealthNet, a district FAQ says.

“For us personally, it would be thousands of dollars a month that my wife would pay for our health care,” he said. “There are a lot of older, retired teachers in the district who are out of the area and don’t have access to Kaiser. It is important for everyone. »

In the longer term, Taylor hopes the new contracts from both unions will help tackle the staffing shortage. The SCTA and SEIU Local 1021 collective agreements expired in 2020, which means the base salary grids have not been updated since then.

“If we can get the contract fixed, it will allow people to focus their attention on revitalizing the school system,” he said. “We are here for the long term fight.”

The district and the unions will continue their separate negotiations before the weekend.

You can find more information about what led to the strike and the resources available to parents right now here.

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