Tentative deal ends Capistrano Unified teachers strike

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A tentative agreement reached late last night between Capistrano Unified’s teachers union and administrators ended a district-wide strike today.

Teachers walked off the job for three days while their negotiators sought to make temporary a 10 percent salary cut imposed by the board of education last month. At Oak Grove Elementary School, nestled in the hills of Aliso Viejo in south Orange County, parents and teachers welcomed the end of the strike.

First grade teacher Nancy Shubsda said she’s happy to be back after three days off the job. "When I saw my kids this morning we all said, 'We missed each other.' We all gave hugs and love and we’re glad to be back."

Negotiators for her union did not get the guarantee they were seeking to expire a 10 percent salary cut in June of next year. And teachers will have to pay for health benefits increases next fall, not this year as administrators wanted. The tentative deal stipulates that if additional state or federal money comes in, a percentage of the salary cut will be lifted.

Capistrano Unified teachers' strike ends from 89.3 KPCC on Vimeo.

Shubsda said it’s OK teachers didn’t get everything they demanded. "I think what we got was respect. Which is one of the things we wanted and they went through the negotiation process, which is what we needed them to go through instead of just imposing."

Student attendance sank during the strike. Three days of teacher picketing got to be a bit much for Jackie Kleinhammes, even though she supported the teachers’ cause.

"It was crazy because I have a kid in each school: elementary, middle and high school. So it was really tough and stressful on the kids and they all came home with different stories about, you know, not really learning anything and the chaos."

Teachers' union leaders said support was overwhelming. Marcia Van Alen, whose second grade daughter attends Oak Grove Elementary, disagreed.

"I think that parents are supportive of their students and they want what’s best for them. If that is that their teachers get back in the classroom that’s fine. I don’t think they’re that supportive of the teachers. They’re supportive of their children. And I don’t think any parent that saw the teachers striking was happy to see them striking." She said teachers and administrators used kids to further adult interests.

The strike by Capistrano Unified teachers was nearly a year in the making, longer if you include conflicts between teachers and a previous board majority recalled a few years ago.

Capistrano Unified spokeswoman Julie Hatchel said administrators want to change the relationship with the union.

"I think this really demonstrated the importance of working together, collaboratively on both sides of the issue to focus on the common good of the district, protecting the financials, making sure that student programs are intact, and again, moving forward in a positive direction that looks out for the best interests of everyone involved."

It may take a while for that to happen. Officials at the Capistrano Unified teachers' union said they’ll continue to back a recall of two board members that voted for the salary cuts.