Hundreds of Sweetwater Union High School District teachers voting on possible strike

Sweetwater teachers at contract impasse

CHULA VISTA, Calif. - About 1,800 teachers in the Sweetwater Union High School District began voting Thursday morning on a strike.

The Sweetwater Education Association has been working without a contract for months, and leaders told 10News Thursday they haven't made any progress since October.

SEA members will vote through Friday at 7 p.m. If they approve a strike, the union could announce it will walk out of South Bay classrooms at any point.

"It's nice to see that we're actually making some progress and at least showing the district we're serious," said Sweetwater English teacher Kristin Elam. "It's bad because none of us want to strike."

"We're frustrated. We deserve some respect," said SEA President Roberto Rodriguez, who added they've been making concessions for six years to help weather the down economy.

Now, they want to keep the same medical benefits from their last contract, they want a 3 percent raise and want classroom sizes to decrease by about 10 students.

"'The money's there. We don't understand what the holdup is," said Rodriguez.

"Clearly, we're disappointed because nobody wants to see a strike," said Sweetwater Union School Board President Jim Cartmill.

Cartmill added the district is offering a realistic deal from its $400 million budget.

"Almost 90 percent of our budget is people," he said.

"They're not focused on us," said Elam.

"It feels like most of the board members are distracted with their legal issues," added Rodriguez.

"I think we all have difficult circumstances," said Cartmill, who along with two other board members is under indictment in a bribery scandal.

Their trial is set for next month. One board member already pleaded guilty and was forced to step down.

Cartmill denied that a factor.

"I know as an elected school board member we all want to do what's best for kids," he said.

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