Teachers walk out as tensions build

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By Karen Wilkinson

Triplicate staff writer

More than 110 Del Norte County School District teachers walked out of Thursday's board meeting following the flag salute, a move board members condemned as disrespectful, disruptive and uncalled for.

The Del Norte Teachers Association and the school district are in the midst of salary negotiations and hit an impasse last December when they couldn't reach an agreement.

An outside negotiator met with both sides Monday to no avail, teachers' association president Mike Mealue said, and will meet again March 19 privately.

andquot;It's our feeling that the board has turned its back on the teachers and we're turning our backs on you,andquot; Mealue said as the meeting was about to commence.

Board President Faith Crist pounded her gavel and proceeded to call Mealue out of order.

He then turned to the audience and numerous teachers wearing signs with messages of andquot;Don't turn your back on my family,andquot; andquot;Reward me,andquot; andquot;Honor me,andquot; and andquot;Respect meandquot; and directed them to walk out, which all but a few, did.

andquot;Yeah, it was rude,andquot; Mealue said. andquot;It was unprofessional and that's what it was intended to be.andquot;

Board member Bill Maffett said in his 43 years working at the school district, he's andquot;never seen a display like that,andquot; adding it was rude and disrespectful.

Board member Bob Berkowitz said he would have loved to have had a dialogue with the teachers. andquot;They don't want a dialogue, they want a confrontation.andquot;

But teacher and union negotiator Janet Parker said teachers have never met with and negotiated directly with the school board. And neither side is legally allowed to, Parker added.

Mealue said the school district's negotiating team needs to go back to the board with the teachers' demands and support them.

andquot;The district can afford to pay what we're asking for without jeopardizing the monetary wealth of the school district,andquot; he said. andquot;We know they can afford it.andquot;

And if board members thought Thursday's incident was rude, andquot;they haven't even seen the beginning of the games yet.

andquot;They're nuts if they think we don't have our member support,andquot; Mealue said.

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