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Time is running out for teachers in San Diego Unified. Within the next few weeks, schools will begin staffing for next year. As it is right now, more than 1,500 employees are laid off and many of those layoffs came from Fay Elementary. In a few weeks, any teachers who have not been laid off will be able to apply to take our positions. We realize that the district and the union are beginning to have conversations, but our fear is that any solutions to this current stalemate could be too little too late. We don’t want just any job, we want to work here.

Until May 29, no one has asked what we thought, despite the fact that these layoffs will wipe out 26 out of the 27 teachers at Fay Elementary. That leaves one teacher who will be a familiar face to our students next year. If you will allow us, we would love to paint you a picture of Fay Elementary, and why this is such a big deal.

The story really starts nine years ago, at Jackson Elementary when a brand new staff was hired to teach at a school in southeastern San Diego. It was well known to be one of the worst schools in the city. The scores were low, the behaviors were challenging, and the perception of the neighborhood was bad. But here we came, brand new teachers fresh out of college, excited to teach and ready to put in the work. And we did.

In nine years, Jackson Elementary has turned itself around. We have a new name and a new building, but more importantly, we have the same staff and this same staff has become a family — and the kids are the heart of it. The kids know we care about them because we have stuck around, and all they needed was a little love and security to shine. We have created a totally new environment full of smiles, learning, creativity, good character and overall positivity. We know all the kids and their stories and they trust us.

This is going to be what is ripped away from the students when they come to school next year. Twenty-six teachers, who they were sure cared about them, are gone. And let me just mention that these are 26 teachers who are not new teachers. The teachers at Fay Elementary have double master’s degrees and national board certifications, and one of our teachers has just earned a Ph.D. We are college professors and district trainers. We are innovative and creative, and we work on our three months off. We work all the time, because we care so much.

We’ve got to turn this fight between the union and the district around. We’ve got to turn it to what really matters. And what really matters is the students — the students of Fay Elementary.

However, this is not just a story about us. If the district goes through with the layoffs, every classroom will be affected. Every child will sit in a classroom with more students, every school will lose some teachers (either due to layoffs or reorganization) and every school will lose important student support services (nurses, counselors, etc.).

We can’t speak for everyone, but as for us, we want to keep our little family together, and we are willing to make some sacrifices. We stand firm that this is an issue that affects everyone in our city, and we are demanding that our district and our union reach a speedy solution to this problem. It’s not about our pockets. It’s about their future.

Sharon Fargason, Rebecca McRae, Corrin McEwen, Jennifer Sandoval, Ysabel Watts, Mike McEwen and Melanie Speros are teachers at Fay Elementary.

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Dagny Salas

Dagny Salas was web editor at Voice of San Diego from 2010 to 2013. She was an investigative fellow at VOSD from 2009 to 2010.

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