Educators advocate for higher wages at Ventura Unified School District Board meeting


Ailanie Martinez

Ventura Unified School District teachers and families leave the Board meeting feeling a mixture of determination and uncertainty.

Ailanie Martinez, Reporter

The Ventura Unified School District (Ventura Unified) Board meeting on Sept. 27, 2022 addressed the frustrations concerning the wages of district employees, setting the stage for a night of emotion and change. 

The room was dominated by red shirts with messages that read, “help us help kids,” many of them worn by teachers or staff of Ventura Unified. Many also held signs with similar messages, and the energy in the room became increasingly anxious and eager as the 7 p.m. start time approached. 

Ventura High School instructor Linda Bergfeld draws a pie chart of the VUSD budget. (Ailanie Martinez)

The meeting began with a Superintendent’s Report, with students from El Camino High School (El Camino), Ventura Adult and Continuing Education and Foothill Technology High School (Foothill Tech). 

Bryce Hickerson ‘23 represented Foothill Tech, giving an update on the growing tension between students and administrators following the recent schedule changes. As a way to ease the animosity, the Associated Student Body (ASB) is focusing on unity with school events and activities such as the Water Balloon Toss and upcoming Happy Haunts dance

The audience came to attention when public comments opened, and members of the Ventura Unified Education Association (VUEA) and Ventura Education Support Professionals Association (VESPA) prepared themselves for the speeches to come.

VESPA and VUEA had previously asked for a 12.8 percent pay raise for teachers and were met with an offer of one percent. Many of the following speakers viewed this as insulting and felt that they were being disrespected.

Teachers feel like leftovers.

— Kai Cruz

Sebastian Declerck, a teacher at Pacific High School (Pacific), shared his hopes for Sept. 29, when negotiations open for higher wages. “Teachers will provide what they are paid for,” he warned, opening up about how educators’ jobs don’t end when the school day is over. He explained that there will be a worsening in the quality of education and lower standards overall. 

Another instructor from Pacific High, Beth Warren, told the Board, “Now is the time to increase salaries to keep and attract teachers and counselors for the future of every student.” Applause and cheers of support erupted from the crowd, and she passionately added, “Now is the time to stop doing harm to your teachers.”

Cara Miller, teacher at Citrus Glen Elementary School (Citrus Glen), criticized the “attempt to gaslight our community with incorrect data and information about the one percent pay raise.” She implored Board members to listen to the teachers for the good of the students.

We are not asking for the moon and the stars, we are just asking for our fair shares.

— Ventura Unified teacher

A teacher from ATLAS Elementary related the issue to a rule ingrained into Ventura Unified students from a young age: treat people how you would like to be treated. She asked, “Are you following what we’re teaching our students? Is that the golden rule?”

In a final, impassioned speech, an official from Oxnard School District (OSD) spoke directly to the Board. “Your employees are falling behind,” he cautioned them. “When costs of living rates are higher, it’s a pay cut.”

Following a thunderous standing ovation, the meeting was adjourned and emotions were at an all time high. A wave of red left the room, leaving an air of worry and hope for future wage negotiations.

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