UNION CITY (KPIX 5) – For the first time ever, teachers in the New Haven Unified School District covering Union City and South Hayward have gone on strike.

About 600 teachers took to the picket lines around 7 a.m. Monday, after contract negotiations broke down over the issue of raises.

The New Haven Teachers’ Association is seeking a 10 percent pay raise over the next two school years. Meanwhile, the district is saying their “last, best, and final” offer is a 1 percent raise for the 2019-2020 school year as part of the teachers’ salary schedule, plus a one-time 3 percent payment.

“More helpful to have it now rather than later. We also know there is no great time for a strike,” said Joe Ku’e Angeles, president of the teachers’ union. “It’s about the impact of when we can get our message across.”

The teachers say they never wanted to go on strike, but felt that the district left them no choice.

“It’s a magical place and it makes me really sad, as you can see, that we have gotten to this low point,” said Brenda Moreno a teacher at James Logan High School.

Moreno has taught at James Logan for 34 years.

The district argues the average teacher’s salary of $96,000 is the highest in all of Alameda County.

But Moreno said that figure is misleading.

“The district pays zero into our healthcare, so we buy it ourselves,” said Moreno, “For my husband and I between our dental and medical, and then the portion I put in for Medicare, it’s $20,000 off the top for me.”

Monday morning, the students who showed up to school were kept in the pavilion for hours. Instead of going to class, they were shown an animated movie, causing some parents to pull their students out of school.

“We just want to support our teachers. In not coming to school, we’re doing that,” said Lilliana Guardado, a senior at Logan High School.

Students told KPIX 5 they’re worried about how this strike may affect their grades and the college admissions process many of them are going through. And some students are taking the school district’s side.

While some parents sympathize with the teachers, they say striking at this time of year right before finals makes it tough for their kids.

“And they’re exposed to this stuff, too. It is harder for them, too,” said Valerie Salinas, the mother of a James Logan High School freshman. “They’re going to school where they should be getting an education.”

Monday’s walkout follows a teacher strike in Oakland earlier this year.

The district said substitutes and administrators are being brought in to cover for those on strike, and that school would be in session.

The district told KPIX 5 that attendance was way down Monday. Only 20 percent of the student body showed up.

One student told KPIX 5’s Jackie Ward that many kids are staying home Monday.

“Right now, there should be like tons of students walking to school normally. Like on a normal day, there would be students everywhere,” said James Logan freshman Donovan Nam

The school district says they were unable to get a substitute teacher for every class and admitted that it was possible a movie was played while things got sorted out Monday morning.

Those students who chose to stay home were assured that they would not be punished. In an email sent to the school’s students and parents, James Logan High principal Abhi Brar wrote, “Student attendance during strike will not be used to determine truancy/attendance letters, or participation in any school-related activities. No student will be penalized for missing school during strike.”

The district told KPIX that in a last-ditch effort to avert the strike on Sunday, it offered to include language in the contract that said if the district sees a surplus, they would give teachers an additional raise.

The district said the Sunday offer was if New Haven had $1 million surplus, the district would give the teachers another 0.5 percent raise. If the surplus is more than $2 million, the teachers would get an additional 1 percent raise. The district says the union rejected that offer.

No matter what happens in this negotiation, the district is planning to cut its budget by $3.9 million dollars for the next school year and by another $4.6 million the following year.

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