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Madera teachers pack board meeting

Madera Unified teachers packed Tuesday's board meeting, pushing for a new contract.
Frustrated teachers in Madera have turned to the power of the pen to try and get a new contract. 

Hundreds of teachers turned out Tuesday at the Madera Unified School Board meeting. 

They're giving members of the board personalized letters, intended to avoid a strike. 

Teachers filled the board room and more lined up outside after it was filled to capacity.

Some voiced their concerns to trustees while the rest chose to drop compelling letters into boxes for the board members.

The letters urged the district to end its dispute with teachers, which has gone on for years. 

Some of the main sticking points are the district wants teachers to contribute more than the 10% they're currently paying for their health insurance. The board also wants teachers to attend state mandated training courses without being paid. 
Instructors say those are unfair requests, since they haven't had a pay raise in more than five years. 

The goal of the teachers is to sway 4 of the 7 board members to their side because a majority means trustees can direct the superintendent to meet with their bargaining team to try and hammer out a contract. 

Madera South teacher, David Holder, said "If we can do this, we can not have to escalate this into a strike scenario. But again... it's not within our power. The school board has to make the decision if they want to come back and until now they have said they're not willing to."

Madera Unified has close to $40 million in its reserve account, which could be used for raises and hiring more teachers, but Madera Unified Superintendent, Dr. Anthony Monreal has said that's not an option because of economic uncertainties.

The district does not feel comfortable dipping into that money in case it's needed to pay monthly bills later down the line. 

The school year for Madera Unified wraps up next week, so it appears students and parents will avoid a strike... at least until fall. 
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