Picket signs greet new school chief | SierraSun.com

Picket signs greet new school chief

Emma Garrard
Sierra Sun
Emma Garrard/Sierra SunEd Hilton, who teaches sixth-grade math and science at Alder Creek Middle School, holds his son Evan, 2, as they picket outside the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District offices Monday.
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More than 50 teachers and support staff from the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District picketed district offices for better pay Monday in Truckee.

Before reaching an impasse in early March, teachers were asking for a 12 percent increase while the district was offering 3 percent. The difference caused a stalemate and a state mediator was called in to move negotiations along.

On Monday, Jan Theis, who teaches second and third grades at Truckee Elementary School, showed an old photo of herself picketing along the same stretch of Donner Pass Road with her infant daughter on her back.

Theis’s daughter will graduate from college next month.

“Here I am again,” said Theis, who has been teaching since 1984. “This is getting so old. To go through with this over and over again is discouraging.

“We always get the message we are asking for too much. The salaries have increased but not proportional to other districts, and there’s always a fight.”

The picketing was timed for new district superintendent Steve Jennings’ first day of work. He was out shaking the hands of teachers Monday afternoon.

“I’ve had a lot of conversations,” Jennings said. “We are all here for the same reason, and that’s for the students. The end result is the best education for our students.”

Jennings said he’s learning the issues and priorities in the district, including the compensation question.

“I have no idea what the salaries are,” he said. “It always needs to be a priority providing compensation.”

Ed Hilton, who teaches sixth-grade math and science at Alder Creek Middle School, said he is also a pastor at Truckee Lutheran Presbyterian Church to help pay his mortgage.

“We hold down three jobs to live,” Hilton said of he and his wife. “We would like a professional raise. There’s a negative attitude coming from the school board.”

It is Hilton’s third year teaching at Alder Creek. He said he moved from New Jersey to be closer to family and took a $15,000 pay cut to work in Truckee where the cost of living is twice as much.

“We just want to be able to pay our mortgage payment,” Hilton said.