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Hayward High School teacher Connie Elkhouri (center) sings along as a band plays during a teacher's rally in Birchfield Park on Tuesday, Mar. 6, 2007, in Hayward, Calif. The teachers are asking for a pay raise. (Jane Tyska/The Daily Review)
HAYWARD — Teachers frustrated to the "boiling point" over failed contract negotiations marched on the district office late Tuesday afternoon in a protest rally that included hundreds of parents and supporters.

Earlier in the day union and district officials met with a neutral fact finder to help resolve differences in compensation — to no avail, union leaders said.

"(The district) offered us 3 percent," said Kathy Crummey, Hayward Education Association president. "Where are their priorities? They need to put them back in the classroom and not at the district office."

Teachers are seeking a 16.84 percent salary increase — a figure recently given to top administrators — while the district has maintained its offer of a 3 percent raise retroactive to last July.

If the sides fail to reach an agreement during this critical stage, teachers would be in the legal clear to call for a strike.

A vote on whether to take action is scheduled to take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday during a general union membership meeting at Sunset Adult School.

Union leadership would need 50 percent of the vote, plus one, to have permission to call for a strike, Crummey said.

If Tuesday's crowd is any indication, teachers are more than ready to do so, as they chanted "Strike! Strike! Strike!"

Bonnie Castrey, who helped settle last year's contract, returned as the neutral fact finder. She is expected to issue a nonbinding recommendation during the week of March 19.


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At that point the district can accept the recommendations and bring the union back to the bargaining table, or impose its final offer.

Birchfield Park's basketball court on Santa Clara Street was the rallying point for a sea of teachers and supporters dressed in green.

"For some reason the school board doesn't get it yet," Dean Vogel, of the California Teachers Association told demonstrators. "But we're going to take it to them today. Let's go get them."

Prior to marching toward the district office on Amador Street — no one there emerged to meet with them — teacher spirits were lifted at the expense of the district courtesy of The Angry, Tired Teachers, a band made up of Hayward High School educators.

They remade popular songs and unveiled its latest original work inspired by the contract negotiations.

"Oh no, I must be some kind of a fool," the band sung. "I teach at a Hayward school."

Teachers also held signs in the shape of a boot, to show that they're ready to walk.

"More than 525 teachers in the past three years alone have retired or left this district for better pay and more respect," Crummey said. "By not investing in its teachers, this district is hurting its schools and students for years to come."

Hayward teachers earn about $47,000 annually, but have to pay for their own health benefits, according to the California Teachers Association. The union says their salaries are among the lowest in the East Bay.

A similar rally was held during last year's fact finding process with a reported 800 in attendance. Both sides settled on an agreement on the last day of fact finding — averting a strike.

District officials are hopeful a settlement can be reached soon.

In 2002, Hayward schools were in a financial bind and to help the district, teachers voluntarily waived a then newly-negotiated contract raise with the idea they would receive compensation down the road when the budget was able to hold its own.

Part of the reasoning behind waiving a salary increase was to avoid layoffs down the road while the district worked on recovering the budget.

Two years after they deferred the raise, teachers were able to attain the non-retroactive 1.75 percent raise, plus an additional 1.12 percent cost of living adjustment. Last school year, teachers agreed to an incremental .83 percent raise.

Hayward Unified has worked its way to a budget that is better than it has been in recent years, but a declining enrollment has cut through some of this year's funding. Projections also show the enrollment to continue declining the next three years.

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