Lead Story West Edition

A PROTEST FOR RESPECT: Inglewood teachers rally outside district headquarters

By Dennis J. Freeman

Contributing Writer

INGLEWOOD — Members of the Inglewood Teachers Association demonstrated in front of the Inglewood Unified School District headquarters May 15 as negotiators for both sides worked to reach an agreement on a new contract.

Teachers demonstrated with picket signs and blew horns and whistles to get the attention of passing motorists to honk in support of their cause as they protested for a couple of hours.

Dressed in red, teachers and their supporters marched along Inglewood Avenue with their signs. The rally started off slow, with just a handful of teachers, but about 20 minutes into the rally that number grew as teachers arrived following staff meetings at their respective schools.

“We’re hopeful we can get this deal done within a day or so,” a spokesman for the teachers union said.

Inglewood Teachers Association President Aba Ngissah said the district is trying to do away with benefits that teachers currently enjoy.

“The district wants to cut our benefits,” Ngissah said. “We are the lowest-paid teachers in the county of Los Angeles. We have taken cuts. … we’ve taken furlough days. Everything we do, we’ve done to try to help this district. First, we were fighting the old board’s mismanagement, the old leaders in the district’s mismanagement.

“Now that the state has taken over, we’re still fighting mismanagement. It doesn’t make any sense,” Ngissah added. “Now they want to cut our benefits so that supposedly it will fix things. Next year, we’re going to be in the same position.

“The district [and California Superintendent of Public Instruction] Tom Torlakson’s office are not doing what they’re supposed to do.”

A supporter of Inglewood teachers blocks traffic May 15 outside the Inglewood Unified School District headquarters, where teachers staged a rally. Contract negotiations have reached a standstill between the district and the union. (Photo by Dennis J. Freeman)

The district wants the teachers to cover part of the costs of their health insurance. Ngissah said union members would be forced to pay anywhere from $800 to $1,100 to cover their benefits should the district get their way.

“Members wouldn’t be able to work here,” Ngissah said.

Aisha Royal, vice president of the Inglewood Teachers Association, doesn’t have too much faith in the district and union coming to a resolution that will be beneficial to all parties involved.

“The only confidence I have is in the membership of ITA,” Royal said. “We’ve been negotiating on behalf of our members with integrity. The district and the management have not been willing to see our side.

“Right now, this is the conclusion of our mediation or fact-finding process, where a third-party is going to render a decision what the actual state of affairs is and if there can be any cuts made. It’s not to our benefit.

“We’re strong and we’re united. Many of us are veteran teachers. We’ve suffered substantial layoffs every year. It’s about time that we are actually respected and treated like that. That’s what this process is about.”

The school district issued a statement May 16 on negotiations.

“Inglewood Unified School District is currently in contract negotiations with [its employees],” the statement said. “On March 21, the mediator moved the negotiations … to the fact-finding stage. The fact-finding meeting took place May 15. … We hope an agreement can be reached.

“The district has, and will continue, to bargain in good faith. Updates will be provided on our website.”