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OC teachers threaten to sue school district

December 15, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
Teachers are threatening to sue the La Habra City School District as the bitter labor dispute continues.Details of the alleged litigation were not immediately available.

Despite the ongoing discord, teachers are set to return to work on Thursday, which is the last day of school before winter break. School resumes Jan. 3.

The teachers union and the school district say the strike has ended, but both sides continue to seek a settlement.

The La Habra Education Association and the district were going back and forth with proposals as late as 9 p.m. on Tuesday. However, the proposals were reportedly too conflicting for the two sides to reach an agreement. No new date was set to continue negotiations.

The school district says the situation is getting worse by lack of communication, saying they've presented the union with a workable proposal but the union did not respond.

"We believe that they had no intention of settling but continuing to play games," said Danette Brown, the president of La Habra Education Association.

"The trustees in this district are very understanding of their teachers and are very proud of their teachers and they want to give them everything they can, but you cannot give what you don't have," said Dr. Susan Belenardo, superintendant of the La Habra School District.

The teachers went on strike last Wednesday. At the center of the battle is a currently implemented two-percent permanent pay cut to teachers and increased contributions to their healthcare benefits.

School officials say the cuts will save the district $220,000 in the next two years and argue that the cuts are necessary because of the lack of funds.

The union says they would agree to the cuts now if they are rescinded in the future when the financial picture improves.

"We've always believed that like every other district in Orange County, those cuts need to be temporary and they need to be comparable," said Brown.

But the district insists the problem is a lack of communication.

"I'm totally unclear on what they're saying about permanent cuts because there was never anything with permanency handed across the table. It all had restoration language included in the proposal," said Belenardo.

The entire scenario is even more confusing to those directly affected by the strike.

"Personally I think it's confusing because the teachers are telling us one thing and the board is saying something else and we don't know what to do and it just goes down to the kids," said parent Yessenia Delarosa.

Many parents have kept their children at home in support of their teachers and their strike and say the students should be back in class with their rightful instructors.

"They miss their teachers and they want their teachers back in the classroom, so they need to come back," said parent Carol Mammolite.

"I'm extremely saddened. This has hurt the community, and nothing will ever be normal again and it's very, very sad, but we're going to try our best to make it normal for the kids," said another parent Carla Tezak.

Since the strike, classes in La Habra schools have been taught by substitute teachers.

Tuesday, there was some confusion as teachers tried to return to their classrooms thinking a deal had been reached only to be turned away. The district said they would allow teachers back on an individual basis if they decide to no longer be on strike and agree to forfeit their compensation for the days they were on strike.


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