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HAYWARD TEACHERS Kerry Von Esch and Linda Seeman take part in a strike rally Thursday at Birchfield Park in Hayward. (ARIC CRABB - STAFF)
HAYWARD — Teachers set up picket lines early Thursday in what officials are calling a record-setting work stoppage in the state's history of public school districts.

About 98 percent of the union's membership participated in Hayward's first teachers strike in more than a decade, according to the more than 1,300-member union Hayward Education Association.

"I've never seen this before, and there's just incredible support," said Kathy Crummey, HEA president. "The district better call us back to the bargaining table because they've seen what has been done to education in Hayward."

Despite the union's claim, however, district numbers show 5 percent of union members stayed in the classroom.

Although school officials encouraged parents to keep their children in school during the strike, it appeared the message was defied.

A spot check at a number of campuses Thursday morning showed that schools were veritable ghost towns.

At Lorin Eden Elementary, parents drove up with their children, saw teachers carryingsigns and then promptly reversed course, to cheers from picketers.

Teachers, who kept a head count, said 35 students attended that school.

At Mt. Eden High School, 31 students signed in for classes, according to teachers.

Other union numbers show about 30 students at Hayward High and 89 at Tennyson High attended classes.

District numbers, however, differ from the union's — officials say more than 150 attended class at Hayward High.


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In all, officials reported that about 21 percent of the district's 20,000 students attended school Thursday.

How many stayed the entire day is unknown.

Ebony Miller, a Mt. Eden junior, said an administrator told her to go home or go to work in the gym. She left with a group of friends as an administrator yelled, "Take care."

While the majority of students are taking an early spring break — district schools begin vacation next week — some supported teachers by providing them snacks and card games.

"When it comes down to it, (teachers) are the most important part in the education system," said Jake Duncan, a Hayward High School student who helped pass out water and potato chips at several campuses. "We just wanted to show our support because they've been mistreated and misused."

Parents who support the teachers even joined picket lines.

"I'm just doing whatever I can to help teachers get what they deserve," said Maria Landeros, who held up signs with her son at Lorin Eden.

Part of the reason why district officials have encouraged students to attend class, which Superintendent Dale Vigil reiterated Thursday, is because prepared lesson plans will be given in a safe environment.

But students who attended class were surprised by Thursday's curriculum.

"I worked on English-as-a-second-language packets," said Genaro Palomino, a student at Tennyson High.

Palomino, who spoke perfect English when interviewed, left shortly after "doing nothing" and planned to skip school today.

"There's just no point in coming," he said.

Meanwhile, substitute teachers were in demand. Although officials contacted more than 1,000 substitutes, who would be paid at a doubled rate of $300 per strike day, the district said only about 200 reported for assignment.

Vigil said that, thanks to new online job postings and lists from other districts, more substitutes will be on hand today. He is hoping for 30 more substitutes.

Schools surveyed reported having anywhere from three to 11 substitutes.

The actual number fluctuated throughout the day as administrators traded substitutes among campuses, based on need.

"Could you spare a sub at Longwood?" an administrator was heard asking through a two-way radio at Tennyson High. "I think it's to fill a classroom."

Picketers took an afternoon break from the lines and attended a support rally at Birchfield Park.

Hundreds of educators, parents, students and other labor leaders attended the hourlong event before heading back to the lines.

"With this kind of empowerment, there's no way we can lose," said Mercedes Faraj, union vice president. "We're on our way to victory."

Teachers were spurred to walk out after their demands for better pay were not met by the district.

Based on a report from a neutral mediator who said the district is unable to pay, Hayward Unified has pointed to declining enrollment — which has stifled district funding — as to why it cannot meet the teachers' demands.

Officials have said the cost of the demanded salaries would bankrupt the district and that their latest offer, which surpasses the mediator's nonbinding recommendation of a 5 percent increase, is the best they can do given financial parameters in the district.

The district is offering a 7 percent raise beginning in July with the potential to reach 8.6 percent over two years, depending on district savings.

As part of the package, a 3 percent one-time increase for this school year retroactive to July is also being offered.

Union leadership rejected the offer Wednesday evening, calling it an insult and blaming it for fueling the walkout.

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

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

HEA has backed off from its original demands and now seeks a 16.12 percent increase over two years.

Teachers viewed the one-time increase as a slap in the face, because for this school year they would receive 3 percent of their annual salary. That is about $1,800 for a teacher making $60,000 a year.

No bargaining sessions are scheduled, but both sides are open to meeting during spring break. Teachers say they will continue to strike until they are offered a "fair and equitable" contract.

The district has set up a hot line at (510) 784-2605 for parents to get updated information. The district's Web site, http://www.husd.k12.ca.us, also will be updated regularly, and officials encourage parents to visit a link on the home page, "Parent and Guardian Labor Dispute Information."

For more information on the Hayward Education Association, visit http://www.heaonline.org.

Kristofer Noceda can be reached at (510) 293-2479 or knoceda@dailyreviewonline.com.

More problems in HUSD?

Aside from a teacher strike that may spill into next week s spring break vacation, district officials received complaints Thursday from parents concerned over their children s education.

Parents from Glassbrook and Schafer Park elementary schools said they would like the district to look into problems they ve found at their schools, including a lack of credenti-aled teachers, poor quality textbooks and inadequate school facilities.

The district has 30 days to fix the problems under the provisions of Williams v. California, which settled on behalf of students in August 2004. The case was brought by Eliezer Williams, a student who challenged the state to ensure quality learning conditions for low-income students of color.

Prior to the flurry of complaints received Thursday, district officials said one Williams complaint had been filed since the law was implemented in 2005.