On Monday, April 20, a sea of blue-clad people gathered at the district office, spilling out the doors into the parking lot. PUSD teachers and administrators were brought together for the board meeting organized to discuss the wage dispute.
The meeting started out as almost lighthearted, with a food truck and music playing, but quickly became serious.
First to speak were the board members, and the president of the board, Kimberly Beatty.
“Despite being one of the 25 largest school districts in the state, we’re very much like an extended family, and sometime we don’t like our relatives, and sometimes misunderstandings and disagreements arise,” Beatty said. “Simply the current strife is boiled down to two questions: who gets money, and who decides who gets money.”
The response from many of the teachers towards Beatty was disdainful, but her question still remains, and has people riled up and divided on both sides of the disagreement.
Next up were the people who wanted to make their voices heard. Candy Smiley, the president of the Poway Federation of Teachers, was first up.
“I hope all of you on the board are able to see the sea of blue that is outside as well as inside,” Smiley said. “I feel as though we haven’t heard the silent majority for a long time.”
Smiley discussed how integral the teachers are, and she also discussed IBPS, or interest based problem solving.
“Our teachers are the heart and core of this great district,” Smiley said. “Not me, and not you. It is the teachers and they’re here tonight, the ones who are wearing the blue shirts.”
Smiley also introduced the idea of this disagreement being like a dance, an idea she referenced several times throughout her speech.
“If we are required to work together, it’s just like learning a dance,” Smiley said. “I am here, the PFT is here, the teachers are here, and tonight we are extending ourselves to the board, and we are asking all of you to be our dance partner.”
On the other side of the “contentiousness,” as Beatty put it, are those who do not feel that teachers need this pay raise so badly. One of these people was a PUSD parent named Steve.
“Is there anyone who believes that any of our fine teachers would purposely do a job teaching at level less than their capabilities if they received a raise of say, one percent or two percent instead of five percent?” Steve said. “I do not. I have a better opinion of our teachers than that.
While the meeting went late into the night, there was no significant headway made on addressing the problem. One thing is for sure: this strife has people very deeply divided.
In the words of board president Beatty: “Something about money seems to get people fired up.”