Compromise on teachers’ salaries ends possibility of a strike


Sentinel Staff

Northgate teachers including history and sociology teacher Christine Reimer, government and economics teacher Jon Burchett and math teacher Dana Tarantino joined dozens of teachers who picketed March 18 . The teachers and those at other district schools were letting families arriving in the morning know the teachers were preparing to strike.

Gabriella Toranski, Staff Writer

The threat of a teacher’s strike tentatively planned for late March ended after teachers and district officials reached an agreement March 18 for a new contract at MDUSD.

Throughout the 2021-2022 school year, Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD) teachers were trying to agree on a working contract while preparing for a strike against the district if no deal was reached.

MDEA, the Mt. Diablo Education Association, had been negotiating with the district in order to receive a better contract for teachers, requesting a 12.5% salary increase and smaller class sizes being the primary objectives. The district was offering 7%, with an extra one-time payment.

“Since we hadn’t had a pay raise since 2017, we felt that our value was higher than what we were getting,” explained James Rogers, who teaches U.S. History and Government/Economics.

While discussions were still in the air, the union authorized the ability to go on strike in case an agreement could not be formed. The earliest date for the movement was March 28—the week before Northgate’s spring break. 

Teachers were determined to prove their commitment to the cause and spread awareness to as many people as possible. On March 18, Northgate educators picketed outside of the school’s drop off lane. The signs they carried proclaimed their upcoming plans, creating so much attention that an ABC 7 reporter investigated the scene. Teachers were interviewed and filmed, all before the first period bell rang.

However, the need to strike did not need to come into fruition. Early the next morning, a statement sent from the district and MDEA to educators and families explained that, “after numerous hours of work, and after the state-appointed neutral fact finding panel chair weighed in, [they] were able to reach a full tentative agreement.” Included was “…a 10.5% salary increase over the three-year term of the contract.” The agreement also ensures “the new state law regarding Transitional Kindergarten staffing ratios will be followed, and it limits class sizes at continuation high schools to 28,” and some other classroom provisions.

Principal Kelly Cooper said she is satisfied with the outcome for her staff. “I am incredibly pleased that the teachers were able to receive a fair raise and come to an agreement. I’m happy that our whole community should now be able to breathe a sigh of relief that a consensus has been made,” she said.

Some students said they were unaware of the issue, but others said they have found comfort in knowing that the two groups found a solution.

Freshman Mina Ismene said during the last week of March that she is pleased to be able to stay in school with the teachers. “I’m glad the teachers got what they needed, but if they had to go on strike, it would have been good because they do deserve a raise,” she said. 

While it is a relief that students’ schedules will not be disrupted, and that leaders have come to a conclusion that satisfies teachers, optimism is not the consensus across all educators.

An eerily similar situation earlier plagued the community, with an unfulfilling resolution. “In 2019, we agreed on a contract… and then, by the time they approved it… there were some financial issues with the settlement. And so, effectively, the contract didn’t happen,” Rogers remarked.

The teachers and district officials still have to formally vote to accept the agreement. Even then, it might be too little, too late: “Even with this contract, we’re going to see teachers leaving the district because other districts are paying… recognizably more for the same job,” Rogers continued.

The agreement comes as district Superintendent Adam Clark has expressed MDUSD’s plans for budget cuts of $8-10 million, by methods of decreasing the number of teachers working within schools and eliminating fourth grade music among other cost-cutting measures.

Northgate’s teachers are passionate and helpful, providing students with invaluable resources for success. While it would be a shame for the community to lose such a vital member, it serves as a solemn warning of the repercussions to an imbalance. 

The process to better pay teachers has been a series of ups and downs at MDUSD, but this progress could be the first step to fixing a damaged relationship.

Sentinel Staff Writer Mariajose Rivera contributed to this article.