Thursday, June 13, 2024

CUSD Update: Salary Negotiations Stalled; End-of-Year Celebrations at Board Meeting

More than three dozen teachers crowded on the median in the 600 block of Orange Avenue on the morning of Thursday, June 6, holding up signs asking for better salaries. The gathering marks a standstill in months-long negotiations between the teachers’ union and the Coronado Unified School District. Later that afternoon, more than 40 members of the Association of Coronado Teachers attended the CUSD school board meeting where educator Jennifer Landry said teachers are struggling to make ends meet.

“I have colleagues who go to food banks to put food on the table for their families,” said Landry. “I have colleagues who live with three other roommates. I have colleagues who work multiple jobs because that’s what they need to do to come here every day.”

According to CUSD, the Association of Coronado Teachers (ACT) rejected the latest proposal to increase teacher pay 4.07%. ACT rejected this offer and asks for a 10% raise for teachers, according to the district.

The negotiations come in the middle of a budget crunch as CUSD faces a $2.3 million shortfall. The district has already finalized layoffs for eight employees and will likely make more cuts. According to the district, exhausted COVID monies, declining enrollment and decreased CoLA (Cost of Living Adjustment) from the state are impacting the bottom line.

Amanda Evans, a mother of three at CUSD, said her family chose to live in Coronado because of the school district but was worried about the state of district funding. She asked if the district could use the reported $12 million in unrestricted district funds to increase teacher salaries and bridge the gap to Basic Aid, whereby the district will be fully-funded by local property taxes.

“Our school feels under-funded in terms of a more robust curriculum, in terms of the number of certificated teachers, and not offering our teachers competitive wages within San Diego county,” said Evans.

Trustee Whitney Antrim acknowledged that funding is a problem; CUSD is currently #40 out of 42 districts in San Diego when it comes to “per-pupil funding.”

“Yes, we are grossly underfunded,” said Antrim. “We are trying to run and operate a school district that outperforms that kind of funding.”

Although the district does in fact have $12 million in reserve funds, CUSD needs all of that funding to stay solvent until it gets to Basic Aid, according to trustee Alexia Palacios-Peters.

It’s important to present a viable budget for the district, according to Deputy Superintendent Donnie Salamanca. If CUSD submits a budget that doesn’t pencil out, the state can ultimately take control and make decisions including staff reductions without board approval.

He asked that community members who are interested in the budget to attend the Budget Study Committee meeting at 3:30 pm on Tuesday, June 18 in the board room at District Offices. All budget study meetings are open to the public.

“Ask us anything,” said Salamanca. “We’re an open book.”

In his comments, Trustee Scot Youngblood reassured community members that, even if an agreement between the district and the teachers isn’t reached, something like a teacher strike is not on the immediate horizon.

“If the negotiation teams were not able to reach an agreement, it would go to mediation, and that can actually take months,” said Youngblood. “And if that process doesn’t bear fruit then you go to fact finding … that can take a long time as well.”

Superintendent Karl Mueller said that the district is taking every step possible to increase funding for the district. In addition to pursuing inter-district transfers, CUSD is actively writing grants in attempts to access more funding.

“We are all seeking resolution and will continue to remain hopeful,” said Mueller. “What makes our district special is that it is built on relationships … we’re all committed to getting through this as quickly as we can.”

District Celebrations

Just before the meeting, new CUSD retirees were celebrated in the courtyard, including Laura Noonan, Forrest Perkins, Martha Protzman and Annette Tickner. They were honored for the contributions to CUSD within their roles.

CUSD honored Annette Tickner, Martha Protzman and Forrest Perkins just before the meeting. (Laura Noonan was unable to attend.)

In addition, the Coronado High School “Stop the Sewage Club” was named “Club of the Year.” Danny Vinegrad and Sean Wilbur were at the meeting to accept the award.

“You’ve made such an impact on this community and taken your advocacy to new levels and avenues that other people haven’t explored,” said Antrim. “I know you’re making a difference and you’re moving the needle. The world is going to be a better place because of you.”

Danny Vinegrad and Sean Wilbur accepted the award for “Club of the Year” on behalf of the Stop the Sewage Club.

Associated Student Body president Wyatt Riebe introduced his successor, new ASB President Dylan Matter.

“I know he’s going to represent CUSD very well,” said Riebe. “I have high hopes and I know he’s going to do great.”

In his Superintendent remarks, Karl Mueller recognized this year’s CHS Valedictorian and Co-Salutatorians, Gabriel Langevin, Cate Gregory and Andreana Frangos. Respectively, they will attend Rochester Institute of Technology, UCLA and Cornell.

Other Board News

In her report, Association of Coronado Teachers president Jennifer Landry introduced the organization’s new executive board: Landry will continue to serve as president, Linda Kullman will be vice president, Sean Castillo will be treasurer and Nicole Molyneux will serve as secretary.

She also acknowledged Pride Month and shared that many districts around the county have raised Pride Flags.

“I hope that one day Coronado Unified will also fly the Pride Flag,” she said.

Landry also shared news about the loss of a beloved district employee, Leah Beske.

Earlier in the meeting, trustee Sandie asked an agenda item concerning the hiring of an E-sports advisor be pulled for discussion. He expressed concern about the role of video games in E-sports as part of a new grant. While Director of Learning Megan Battle shared that E-sports are now CIF-sanctioned and are shown to create positive outcomes for students when it comes to connection and learning, the board agreed to table the hire for the time-being.

Later in the meeting, Mueller shared that a new AP Spanish literature textbook had been identified, subject to approval at the next meeting. He also said that the number of students earning the State Seal of Civic Engagement had doubled since last year, and the district is excited to continue growing the program. Mueller also shared that he attended Project Lead the Way Engineering Design and Development Showcase, where students had designed prototypes, shared research and demonstrated how they could scale projects.

Mueller also acknowledged Pride Month and the work the CHS Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) is doing to foster a culture of inclusivity, and appreciated their calls to be heard and seen.

The next board meeting will be held at district offices on Thursday, June 20, 2024 at 4 pm.


Christine Van Tuyl
Christine Van Tuyl
Christine was born and raised in Texas, but moved to Coronado with her family as a teen in 1993. Although initially horrified by surfers, flannels and skateboards, she ultimately grew to love all things So-Cal. A graduate of UCSD, Christine got her first writing job on the KUSI ten o’clock news while simultaneously juggling a reporter position at the San Diego Community News Group. She worked as a public relations professional, a book editor, real estate professional, and a freelance writer before eventually succumbing to motherhood in 2008.A decade later, Christine resurfaced to start the Island Girl Blog, a Coronado lifestyle blog. In addition, she writes a monthly page for Crown City Magazine. Christine loves hanging out with her husband, Ian, and their two spirited daughters, Holland and Marley, who attend Village Elementary and Coronado Middle School. When she’s not working, you’ll find her practicing yoga, spilling coffee at school drop off, meeting friends for sushi, or sailing the Bay with her family and English Bulldog, Moshi. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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