WATSONVILLE — Citing safety concerns, Pajaro Valley Unified School District Board of Trustees Chair Kim De Serpa adjourned the board meeting before it had officially begun Wednesday night.
The move was prompted by hundreds of teachers who packed the boardroom and refused to leave or move to the adjacent hallway, despite a warning from the Watsonville Fire Marshal and pleas from De Serpa.
The teachers said they attended the meeting in hopes of shutting it down, which was part of an effort to urge the district to give them salary increases as contract negotiations continue.
While many parents said they supported the teachers, the decision to end the meeting frustrated some family members of five students who had come for public recognition for being named student of the year at their schools.
Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers President Francisco Rodriguez said the district should have known attendance at the meeting would be large, and that they should have held it in a larger venue.
“It’s unfortunate,” he said, “The board of trustees is well aware of the frustration that the teachers are feeling.”
Rodriguez said the teachers are asking for a $4,408 increase for transitional kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers, and an 8 percent raise for early childhood educators and adult school teachers.
Jesus Arellano, whose daughter Krista was going to be recognized for being named student of the year at Watsonville High School, said he was surprised to learn about the issues the teachers were there to discuss.
“I support the educators,” he said. “I owe 100 percent of (Krista’s) success to them.”
Thomas Hoops said he also supported the teachers’ position, but expressed frustration that they did not honor a request by the board to allow the student recognition by temporarily clearing the room.
Hoops’ daughter, an eighth-grader at Watsonville Charter School of the Arts, was going to be recognized.
“I wish this whole thing would have been thought out a little more so the kids would have gotten their recognition, and they could have had their protest,” he said.
Luis Diaz, whose fifth-grade daughter was to be recognized by H.A. Hyde Elementary School, said he sympathized with the teachers’ protest.
“I’m glad they asked for respect the way they did,” he said. “They should have asked for a bigger venue.”
De Serpa said she was frustrated by the evening.
“And very sorry for the sweet families and students,” she said. “We will honor them at a later time.”