[UPDATED: Ruling Favors District] La Habra Teachers Ready to Head Back to Classrooms, But Are 'Locked Out' by District

Categories: School Daze
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UPDATE, MARCH 31, 4:24 P.M.: District 1, Teachers 0. A superior-court judge ruled the La Habra City School District did not violate any education codes when it ordered a freeze on automatic pay raises for its teachers. 

"I'm pleased that the decision was in our favor," Superintendent Susan Belenardo told The Orange County Register. "But I'm not pleased that we had to go through all this."

The suit filed by the La Habra Education Association, the union representing the teachers, was filed in June 2010 and cost to the district close to $100,000 to defend itself, according to Belenardo.
 
UPDATE, DEC. 15, 2010, 1:08 P.M.: Well, the strike is over--sort of. Teachers won't be walking the picket lines, but a contract settlement is yet to be reached. Actually, it still seems far off. 

Following the marathon negotiation meeting yesterday that stretched from 3:30 p.m. until around midnight, the two sides couldn't find middle ground. So, the La Habra Education Association (LHEA) is taking the fight from the board room to the courtroom.

"We had hoped to succeed by negotiation, but now, we will seek redress through litigation," said LHEA president Danette Brown in a morning press release.

The grounds: unfair labor practices, based on the standards set by Public Employment Relations Board, according to Bill Guy, who is a consultant with LHEA.

After being locked-out of their classrooms on Tuesday, teachers had said they would willingly return to the classrooms today, despite the circumstances surrounding negotiations. The school district refused, saying they would pay substitutes while they're "planning." Teachers will still be paid for today. 

For a school district supposedly facing financial issues, it seems like a peculiar decision.

Calls to Superintendent Susan Belenardo have not been returned.

Update, December 14, 6:19 p.m.: The negotiating teams for both the La Habra Education Association and the La Habra City School District remain at the bargaining table, in a meeting that began at 3:30 p.m. No word on whether teachers will be in the classrooms tomorrow, according to Bill Guy, who works with LHEA.

There's also a second concurrent meeting ongoing, between attorneys from the California Teachers Association and the school district, discussing the lock-out. LHEA and CTA's position is that the teachers showed up to teach today, so they deserve to be paid. If no deal is made, CTA intends to pursue a legal injunction.

Original Post, December 14, 12:07 p.m.: At 1 a.m. this morning, the La Habra Education Association believed it had finally reached an agreement with a financial advisor from the school district, one that would satisfy both sides of the table, and send their teachers back to the classroom. 

They were so certain, in fact, that they told teachers to do so, beginning this morning. And so the teachers did. 

Except, there were no classrooms to fill or young minds available to be molded. When the teachers showed up to their respective schools they were locked out, according to Bill Guy, a consultant with LHEA, 

Instead of keys to the classroom, the only thing waiting was a form to be signed, which said the teachers wouldn't return to the picket lines, even though an official agreement was yet to be completed.

LHEA and the teachers were acting on "good faith," according to Guy, that the district and Superintendent Susan Belenardo would sign-off on the agreement at a 3:30 p.m. meeting scheduled for today.

Now, LHEA and the teachers don't know what to expect.

The Weekly tried to contact Belenardo, but was told she was in a meeting. 

The teachers strike was the response to a school board-approved slate of cuts to salary and benefits, as well as unpaid furlough days. LHEA and the teachers have agreed to some of the cuts, with some negotiating down along the way, but only if the language of the new contract enables the cuts to be restored if the finances of the district improve. The district wants to keep the cuts permanent. 

We will update as more information becomes available.

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