strike
Hayward teachers went on strike today. (Jay Solmonson - Staff)
HAYWARD _ Teachers shut down the Hayward Unified School District this morning, quietly walking picket lines in front of schools in a work stoppage aimed at convincing district officials that it was time for a decent pay raise.

Administrators said that more than 1,000 potential substitutes had been contacted and wold be paid $300 per day, double the regular pay rate.

However, a spot check early this morning at Mt. Eden High School, 2300 Panama St. and at Lorin Eden Elementary School, 27790 Portsmouth Ave., strike subs were not visible.

At Mt. Eden, which has an enrollment of about 2,200 students, with nearly 100 teachers, just 31 students signed in for classes and 11 substitutes showed up.

A Mt. Eden 11th grader, Ebony Miller, said an administrator told her to go home or go to work in the gym. She left as most students did.

At Lorin Eden, parents drove up, saw the teachers carrying signs and drove away taking their children with them.

At both schools, many cars passing the teachers honked in support. Both schools looked liked ghost towns, one observer said.

Late Wednesday night, in an attempt to avert a strike, Superintendent Dale Vigil proposed a new offer to the union that left teachers feeling more insulted.

Vigil handed Kathy Crummey, Hayward Education Association president, the offer just before heading to the open session of a special school board meeting.

"The bottom line is that the district doesn't want quality in education," teacher Kim Steffen said after seeing the offer.

Now teachers, who say they are among the lowest paid in comparable unified districts in the East Bay, will take to the streets in protest for a "fair and equitable" contract.

"I hope we send the message that administrators are valued in this district and teachers are not," said Alan Pickering-Walters, a librarian at Ruus and Peixoto elementary schools.

Teachers are under a three-year contract ending in June 2008 that calls for mid-contract salary negotiations this school year. Sides have been working on an agreement since last August.

After two superintendents received a 16.84 percent hike in salary last year, teachers have demanded the same increase.

The teachers union has backed off from its original demands and is now seeking a 16.12 percent increase over two years.

But Hayward Unified officials have pointed to declining enrollment, which has stifled district funding, as the explanation for why they cannot meet the teachers' demands.

Those officials have said the teacher salary demands would bankrupt the district.

After originally offering a 3 percent increase retroactive to last July, the district last month offered a 7 percent raise with the potential to reach 8.6 percent over two years, depending on district savings.

Union members have questioned the latter part of that deal and say it is contingent upon how many teachers enroll in an early retirement incentive that the district introduced last month.