COMPTON — After a one-day strike that was capped by a raucous and vitriolic school board session, teachers returned to work in the Compton Unified School District on Wednesday, for the time being content to try negotiating their demand for higher pay.
School officials confirmed that virtually all 1,200 educators who walked out Tuesday--prompting two-thirds of the district's 27,000 students to stay home--were back in their classrooms.
But student attendance was remained slightly down as some parents kept their children away in sympathy for the teachers' drive to improve not only salaries and but also working conditions.
For more than 300 teachers and parents, however, the emotion behind Tuesday's job action rose to a fever pitch Tuesday evening at a standing-room-only meeting of the district Board of Trustees. Fire marshals and security guards had trouble controlling the boisterous crowd, which chanted union slogans and sang songs of solidarity including one to the tune of "On Wisconsin."
At least one man was escorted from the building after an altercation with guards. And television news cameras rolled as more than 30 people took turns addressing the seven-member board, some delivering impassioned appeals, others shouting insults and vowing to launch voter recalls.
Much of the outrage was focused on Supt. Ted D. Kimbrough. But individual board members were also singled out.
"You are less than dirt," parent James Singleton shouted angrily as he pointed to board President Kelvin D. Filer. "You're no good, you're worse than the junkies on the street, you steal from children."
'Had to Send Message'
"We had to send you a message today," teacher Pat Ryan, president of the Compton Education Assn., said calmly.
"We are sorry we had to send such a harsh message. . . .," Ryan said. "We would hope that you would be so embarrassed that your teachers are the poorest paid in the county, that you would be so embarrassed about conditions in our schools, that you will help us to resolve our differences as soon as possible."
Parent Abraham Feltus said: "We've got kids here in this city who can be taught and educated, who can go to Stanford, who can go to UCLA, who can go to SC, who can become doctors, who can become lawyers. But we need teachers who are satisfied with classrooms that are adequate as far as learning, heating and lighting facilities. We need these things."
Marguerite Comer, who also rose in support of the union members, told the trustees: "You pay $50,000 a year for publications to make this district look good. Why don't you pay that $50,000 to the teachers so they can make the district look good?"
Negotiations between the teachers and the school district began last summer but reached an impasse shortly before the current contract expired Sept. 30. The union, which represents roughly 80% of the district's 1,600 teachers, wants an immediate raise of between 10% and 17.5% so salary levels fall within the average of the county's 42 other public school districts.
School administrators have offered a 5% raise in the first year of a three-year contract, followed by later increases if money is available. A 5% increase would cost about $1.725 million, a 10% increase would cost about $3.45 million and a 17.5% raise would cost about $6.038 million.
The district has currently set aside about $47 million for teacher salaries this year out of a total general fund budget of about $106 million.
Sought Better Pay
"You cannot sit here and tell me you don't have the money," said Karen Jones, a past member of the union's contract bargaining team. "I was a teacher here in Compton for 12 years. I got fed up. I left. I went to Long Beach. I got more money there."
"I know the lies that are told in negotiations. . . . I hope to God (that) we in Compton get it together. Our children deserve an excellent education and our teachers deserve to be paid comparable," Jones said.
Added Sara Glass, a child-care provider: "You don't want to work for nothing. All we want is for our kids to get a chance, and we're asking you to give them that chance."
Late last month, a fact-finding panel was set up under the Educational Employment Relations Act to review the positions of both sides on half a dozen unresolved issues, ranging from the union's desire to add two weeks to the adult school term to the district's wish to revise teacher evaluations.
Both sides agreed to five of the six recommendations made by panel Chairman Philip Tamoush. But district negotiator Thurman C. Johnson, a Kimbrough assistant, refused to go along on salaries.
Tamoush recommended that the parties agree to raise teacher pay to the county average by "no later than" the contract's third and final year. He suggested that a joint committee of union and district officials meet quarterly to monitor the administration's efforts to budget more money for teacher pay. And he called for an immediate salary increase of "initially no less than 7.31%"--the average granted this year to other county districts.