West Valley high school teachers fight for higher salaries, smaller class sizes

West Valley high school teachers fight for higher salaries, smaller class sizes

Contract negotiations between the Los Gatos-Saratoga Union High School District and the district’s teachers association are slowing as results continue to trickle in for a special parcel tax election earlier this month.

The district held a special election on May 7 asking voters to increase an annual parcel tax for the district from $49 to $128 to help retain the district’s faculty and support its academic offerings. But since the parcel tax election is still too close to call, negotiations on salary increases in a new teacher contract for the 2024-25 school year are slowing down.

The teachers association held rallies the morning of May 15 at both Saratoga and Los Gatos high schools, in advance of a contract negotiation meeting with the district the same day, to garner support from the community.

“We are asking the district to prioritize teacher salaries to retain the quality educators that make our schools essential to the communities we serve,” teachers association president Jen Young said in a release. “Most (association) members need to supplement their teaching salary with a second job.”

Young said the district has offered a base 2% raise coupled with a 3% raise if the parcel tax is approved. But teachers are looking to wrap up contract negotiations before the school year ends on June 7, and the results of the parcel tax are on track to be certified by June 6.

“If we wait until summer, not only will we lose the momentum of our members, but our bargaining team wants to be able to enjoy their summer as well and have a break,” she said. “So we’re working with them right now to see if we can find a solution that’s kind of meeting in the middle in terms of a timeline.”

The rallies were similar to one staged by the Campbell High School Teachers Association (CHSTA) on May 2. According to a press release from the California Teachers Association, the Campbell Union High School District (CUHSD) offered its teachers association a zero percent raise for the 2024-25 school year. Campbell teachers were also fighting for smaller class sizes, among other issues.

“Our community wants our schools to attract and retain quality educators in a pursuit of equity,” said CHSTA President Kim McCarthy in a statement. “We know CUHSD management can do better than their current offer.”

The May 15 negotiations in the Los Gatos-Saratoga district mark the seventh contract negotiation session this year.

As of May 17, 66.72% of voters in the high school district approved the parcel tax increase, barely over the two-thirds threshold the measure needs to pass. In Santa Clara County, 35 ballots have been flagged as not having a voter’s signature on the return envelope or having a signature that did not match county records. Two ballots in Santa Cruz County have been flagged for the same reasons.

The Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters advised in a press release on May 16 that the voters in question have until June 4 to correct their signatures, and have already been contacted by their respective counties.

Young said the district also has yet to respond to the teachers’ request to shorten their number of working days. They’re proposing eliminating a day that’s reserved for a teacher work day and professional development to better align with elementary school districts in the area that have shorter school years than the high school district, she said.

“If we can reduce it even just by one work day, we’ll still have more than our elementary districts, but we would be able to be more in line with them,” she said.

Spokesperson Tanya De La Cruz said the district is “actively working” to reach an agreement that results in competitive compensation for its staff and maintains the district’s financial health. It’s currently in negotiations with the district teachers association and the California School Employees Association, she said.

“We look forward to continuing good faith negotiations with both associations,” De La Cruz said in a statement.