Lateah Knight and Zoe Koufis

Lateah Knight and Zoe Koufis, who support the strike, marched with the teachers from Analy to downtown Sebastopol on Thursday afternoon.

Students at Analy ponder the pros and cons of the teachers strike

It’s Nov. 14, day two of the West Sonoma County Teachers Association strike, and the students are feeling the impact.

On the strike’s first day, less than 40 students went to class at Analy—in other words, around 6% of the 1,200 students normally in attendance. Enrollment inched only slightly higher on day two.

Many of the students emerging from classes Thursday reported that they were only at school because their parents refused to excuse another absence. Another teen said that the school district had issued a warning that students skipping school would not be allowed to attend Analy’s sports practices — in keeping with the school’s policies on absences.

A letter to parents from Superintendent Toni Beal on Nov. 8 promised, “The district has hired substitute teachers and will maintain safe and orderly campuses for our students. We will be providing enriching educational programs for all students during the strike.” Yet by all accounts, this wasn’t quite the case.

“They let us play games all day,” Analy senior Will Rice said, Monopoly board under his arm.

Another student, who didn’t want to be named, said, “I’d be striking with the teachers if I could. We just played video games in class today. There are about five substitutes and no teachers. It’s a waste of time.”

While many students expressed their support for the strike, others had qualms. Kids in the theater department were forced to cancel the first weekend of their performance of The Crucible due to the strike.

“Of course I think that the teachers should get paid more,” Rice said. “But at the same time, they’re not prioritizing the kids. I’m graduating this year; it’s college application season, and I just hope this doesn’t mess anything up. I think they could have done their strike earlier in the year, maybe.”

A few students, although in support of their teachers being paid a fair wage, wondered if a strike is the way to achieve it. The union rejected the district’s most recent proposal — a 12% raise over three years — because it was contingent on a parcel tax and didn’t guarantee that the district would keep 7th period. (If the district cuts 7th period, eight full-time teachers would lose their jobs.) Some students are worried about the union’s position.

“They can’t raise their salary without cutting a period,” said an Analy junior, who asked not to be named. “Not without budget cuts to programs and stuff. It just isn’t feasible.”

While there’s no doubt that some students saw this protest as an opportunity to ditch school for a few days, others opted to join their teachers in the strike, wearing red in solidarity and waving their signs at cars driving past.

“We love our teachers,” said Prisca Neidermair, an Analy student at the strike on Thursday afternoon. “They deserve better.”

Teacher Sarah Blackmer, who’s been a member of the union for 21 years, pointed out that the average West County teacher’s salary hasn’t increased with cost of living and is now $12,000 below the state average.

For support staff, the average annual salary falls even lower than that of teachers.

Brigitte DeLeon, a member of the support staff at Analy, said, “I’d get paid better if I worked at Burger King.”

The strike is expected to continue tomorrow, and several teachers said they hoped an agreement would be made between the union and the district over the weekend.

Some students assumed that they would be back in school on Monday, but many are prepared to continue protesting alongside their teachers until conditions change.

“Equality and quality are more important than us being in class right now,” said Meredith Poten, a red-clad Analy student, striking outside the campus on Thursday. “We’re willing to sacrifice our school days for this.”

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