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est. 1930

The Wildcat

est. 1930

The Wildcat

est. 1930

The Wildcat

BOTA, CSEA Members Protest For Salary Increase at Rally, Board Meeting

Issabella Garcia
Hilda Armas of CSEA Chapter 207, rallies a gathering of BOUSD teachers, staff, and supporters on Feb. 22. The district’s certificated and classified staff are protesting for a salary increase.

As the sun set beyond the Brea Civic Center on Feb. 22, members of the Brea Olinda Teachers Association (BOTA) and California School Employees Association (CSEA) rallied in the Brea Marketplace parking lot to protest for a salary increase.

BOTA and CSEA are negotiating for a four percent salary increase to keep pace with the state’s rising cost of living, to attract new teachers to the district, and to retain current faculty and staff. Brea Olinda Unified School District (BOUSD) countered with an offer of 2.25 percent and a 1.75 percent one-time, “off-schedule” bonus. 

The rally, which began at 5:30 p.m. to precede the evening’s school board meeting, featured speeches by BOTA leadership, union members in navy blue BOTA t-shirts, and placards that read “Who Will Do the Work,” “Great Schools! Fair Contracts!” and “No Educators? No Education!” 

Standing on the bed of a colleague’s pickup truck with a megaphone, Glenda Bartell, BOTA president and Brea Junior High director of instrumental music, said to a crowd that numbered 119: “This is about our salary, but this is not just about our salary. It should mean something to all of us, and it should mean something to our district. So, we’re here, and we’re going to make a statement.” 

Bartell shared the megaphone with other BOTA board members, including Hilda Armas of CSEA Chapter 207, and Catherine Albee, BOTA secretary and reading specialist at Arovista Elementary School. 

Albee voiced that while class sizes, hours spent working, and stress are elevating, earning comparable wages to her peers in other districts “for doing the exact same work” is falling short, particularly for the district’s elementary school teachers who don’t have daily planning periods. 

“Having what other districts have had for years shouldn’t be on the ‘brag list.’ Are we supposed to feel grateful for working conditions that we simply should just have?” Albee asked.

At 5:55 p.m. ralliers crossed East Birch Street to the BOUSD board meeting. 

Kaitlyn Pulido, senior, joined her teachers in the march to the Civic Center. “I felt empowered knowing I was doing something good for the Brea community and for all the teachers. Even though one person may not make a difference, I feel like they needed the support,” she said.

Outside the entrance to the Civic Center, union members and supporters chanted “four is fair” while awaiting the 6:30 p.m. meeting. 

Beginning with a call to order and roll call, the school board — comprised of Paul Ruiz, president; Carrie Flanders, vice president; and trustees Dr. Chris Becerra, Gail Lyons, and Deana Miller — led the meeting’s agenda, which included a showcase from Laurel Elementary Magnet School (LEMS News anchors gave a “roar”ing rundown of what Leopards have been up to on campus) and a presentation on bond voter survey results.

Teachers simply cannot afford to work in Brea. We are not asking to be the highest paid teachers in Orange County; we’re simply asking not to be the worst [paid].

— Kathryn Alcala, Olinda Elementary School

Nearly three hours later, at 9:27 p.m., community members had the opportunity to speak directly to the board and district leadership. Addressing the assembly were teachers, classified staff, and a parent. Each presenter had three minutes to speak, and the group had 30 minutes allotted for the topic of wages. 

Daisy Bennett, CSEA negotiating committee member and chapter secretary, was the first to address the board. Comparing the wages for paraeducators at BOUSD ($23.44 an hour) to neighboring PYLUSD ($28 an hour), she said, “This is not a competitive wage for over 100 paraeducators here in BOUSD. The district must find a way for a fair wage increase. This is the best and most logical way to retain valuable employees.”

Nicole Baughman-Collinge, BOHS math teacher, said during her allotted time: “Although districts are funded differently, I shouldn’t be making [$20,000] to $30,000 less per year than teachers in nearby districts. You could have offered us X percent, and instead you’ve offered X minus one percent just to see if we would accept. It leads me to doubt the authenticity of your praise for ‘jobs well done.’” 

McKenna Case, second grade teacher at Olinda Elementary, shared that she works three jobs and takes stipend positions for extra pay, yet still qualifies for low income housing. “I currently make $78,838. If I was in the Garden Grove School District, I would make $14,069 more a year. If our pay reflected our merit, we would be one of the highest paid districts in the county,” she said.

A parent shared an anecdote about her son’s four-year battle with cancer. “It was his teachers who kept him going to school,” she said. In the eight years that her son has received special education services, “he’s had over eight [paraprofessional educators] come and go.” She blames the high turnover on the district’s low pay. 

Jeffrey Sipple (’14), paraprofessional at BOHS, said, “I am told how important the work that I do is, but I cannot buy food with words of ‘how good of an employee’ I am.”

“Teachers simply cannot afford to work in Brea. We are not asking to be the highest paid teachers in Orange County; we’re simply asking not to be the worst [paid],” Kathryn Alcala, teacher at Olinda Elementary School, said. 

To adhere to protocol, the school board remained silent during and after each speaker’s comments. According to Miller, the board is not permitted to discuss public comments during the meeting.  

In an email to the BOUSD community on Feb. 15, Brinda Leon, superintendent, wrote, “I believe that we all share common goals: to have competitive wages and the provision of modern, safe, and holistic learning environments to prepare our students. However, based on the current funding structure determined by the state, it is important to note that our district receives fewer [Local Control Funding Formula] dollars compared to other unified districts in Orange County, which makes it tough to raise salaries as much as we’d like.”

Leon added, “While we are one of the least funded districts in Orange County, we acknowledge that it makes it hard to compete with others in terms of salaries. However, we are one of three districts in OC to have consistently provided on and off-schedule salary increases every year since 2017-2018. Unlike some other OC Districts, BOUSD is not eliminating any certificated or classified positions or reducing programs and services for students at this time.”

Both bargaining units, BOTA and CSEA, negotiate their contracts every year. For the 2023-2024 school year, negotiation between BOTA, CSEA and BOUSD began on Sept. 25, with subsequent negotiations on Oct. 11, Nov. 6, Nov. 28, Dec. 5, Feb. 1, and Feb. 21. At the last meeting, the seventh, an impasse was declared.

Following the Feb. 21 negotiations, Leon addressed the impasse in another email to the community. “Following today’s session, a neutral mediator will be utilized to help both parties attempt to resolve the outstanding matter of compensation,” she wrote.

If this step is unsuccessful, the mediator will move the impasse to a fact-finding process in which a third party will assess each side’s proposals and report their findings to both parties. The mediation has yet to be scheduled.

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Ellen Kim
Ellen Kim, Editor-in-Chief
Ellen Kim, senior, has been a member of the newspaper staff since her freshman year and is excited to lead the staff as Editor-in-Chief. Alongside her leadership in the Wildcat, Ellen is involved in ASB as Senior Class President and can be spotted in many clubs and organizations across campus including HOSA, Mubotics, Orchestra, and FTOC. Outside of school, Ellen can be found learning the ukulele, listening to her favorite pop tunes, or playing a competitive round of Uno. Ellen has published over 35 pieces for the Wildcat and is thrilled to create lots more during her final year at BOHS.
Issabella Garcia
Issabella Garcia, Photographer
Issabella Garcia, freshman, is involved in softball and cross country. Her goal this year is to get straight A’s and to be involved in school clubs and sports. She wants to major in journalism and go to Stanford University to major in journalism and digital media. During her free time she likes to listen to music, run, and play with her dog, Skye.
Jacob An
Jacob An, Photographer
Jacob got his first camera last December, and has been developing his photography skills by capturing the beauty of everyday things through landscape and portrait shots. His hobbies include flying airplanes, Muy Thai kickboxing, playing the bass guitar, and scripting games.
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  • BrittanyFeb 27, 2024 at 5:11 am

    I was at the board meeting that night, and this article couldn’t have recapped the events better. Great work!

  • NoelleFeb 26, 2024 at 11:37 am

    Such a well written article. Thank you for reporting on what’s going on in the district. It means a lot to the Certificated and Classified Employees.