Locked Doors and Cancelled Meetings as Teachers Ramp Up Union Efforts

Fiona Murphy, Co-Editor-in-Chief

September 19, 2019

Students found locked classrooms at lunch today and will continue to do so. Certificated staff members agreed to a restricted work policy after the most recent union meeting on Wednesday afternoon. Teachers will work only contractual hours until the current salary and benefit negotiations are completed. This means closing classrooms to students during non-contractual hours, which includes before 8:00 am, lunch, and after 3:30 pm. Teachers participating will refrain from grading and planning at home.  

“Our rooms are no longer open before school, during lunch, and after school,” JoAnn Moore, Arcata High English teacher and negotiations chair, said. 

The district acknowledged the teachers’ ability to lower their work load to the contractual hours. 

“The District completely respects teachers’ right to a 40-minute duty-free lunch period, as provided for in the collective bargaining agreement.” Roger Macdonald, District Superintendent, said, “[however] teachers’ mandatory duties include, but are not limited to: completing progress reports and final semester grades [and] attending before and after school faculty meetings.” 

This policy, aimed to emphasize the importance of teachers and the time they put in, impacts students directly. Clubs will no longer meet without their advisors present. Just today, students arriving to French, Native American, Debate, and Chess club met closed doors. 

“We are sad we have to cancel our meetings and don’t get to organize the service events we love doing,” Jocelyn Bliven, Interact Club Co-President, said. “But we understand why it is happening and support the teachers.” 

Friday’s Interact club meeting was cancelled following the announcement of closed lunches. 

Signs were posted on the doors of participating teachers.
Caledonia Davey/Pepperbox

Not only that, but students face obstacles completing makeup work or meeting with teachers. 

“I have a ton of [biology] work and no where to do it,” Bowen Fracess said when he heard the news. 

Teachers have acknowledged the damage these actions will do to learning conditions, but will follow the union’s plan.

“It made me cry last night, you know how much I help my students at lunch with makeup labs and stuff. It’s definitely a personal battle to make this decision,” said science teacher Shannon Kresge, “but our pay being fair and having the benefits that we need to survive in such a high stress job is really important, so I have to be united with the rest of my teachers even though I know it will hurt my students.”

While unsure whether these actions will affect the district’s actions regarding benefits, teachers remain hopeful.

“I hope that it helps them to understand some of the other things they have come to expect us to do that we do out of the kindness of our hearts for no additional compensation and has a really positive impact on the school and the community,” Moore said.

Currently, the district is not changing their stance on benefits for Northern Humboldt staff members citing financial reasons. 

“I think that it is important to understand that the position we are in negotiations-wise is a matter of fiscal responsibility, it’s not a matter of ‘do we want to’, of course we want to.” Macdonald said, “We care deeply about our faculty, but we also care about them in 3 years and 5 years.”

As of today, the restricted work policy has no definite end in sight. 

Correction: An earlier version called the restricted work policy a modified strike, that is incorrect.