Staff Ed: Classified staff are the backbone of SDUHSD. They deserve much more.

After many grueling months of negotiations between the San Dieguito Union High School District and the California School Employees Association, the district’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved a 4% raise to classified staff wages at a board meeting on March 15. In effect, this would raise the minimum wage of classified staff in the district from the $15.50 state threshold, one that classified employees only received back in January, to $16. However, this $16 minimum wage is still misaligned with the City of San Diego’s minimum wage of $16.30 — though SDUHSD is technically not required to abide by it since schools are out of city jurisdiction.

Though the district is meeting its legal requirements, the fact that negotiations regarding minimum wage are even on the table is absurd. Why is an affluent district such as ours behind the curve rather than ahead of it? Why can other school districts in San Diego County afford to pay their classified workers more than us?

Giving our classified staff the bare minimum says that the work that they do is minimal, which is something utterly untrue.

Classified staff are the backbone of our schools: they are our custodians, bus drivers, nutritional service workers, campus supervisors and secretaries. Just because they may not be licensed educators or administrators, does not mean that they can be treated without dignity. According to Diegueno Middle School school plant supervisor and CSEA negotiator Carlos Magana, SDUHSD teachers are some of the highest paid in the county, while classified staff are not. The district should be providing equitable levels of pay for teachers and classified staff, not disregarding classified employees’ plight.

Over the district board meetings that have followed, many classified employees have spoken out about their wages, labeling them as disproportionate to the increasing cost of living in San Diego County. Though the district is not completely turning a blind eye to this problem, a 1.67% raise along with the newer 4% addition is nowhere near enough to keep up with the rising expenses in San Diego County. The wages classified employees receive in SDUHSD are plainly unlivable – Magana explained that some staff members have even qualified for low-income housing.

Many classified staff have connected these low wages with the fact that SDUHSD has seen immense resignations of classified staff in the past year and a half: 47 in the 2022-23 school year so far, according to SDUHSD Director of Classified Personnel Susan Gray.

These kinds of immense numbers will continue if the district does not step up and raise the wages of our classified staff. Otherwise, what is the incentive for anyone to work here?

Classified staff that are on the lower end of the pay scale could go work at a fast-food restaurant and make around the same money for a job that requires much less effort. Additionally, then they would not have to commute from miles away – as an incredibly slim minority of classified employees at SDUHSD can actually afford to live in the district they serve.

The irony is not lost upon The Falconer. Why can one of our classified staff members go work at Shake Shack and make more than a TPHS custodian who keeps our schools running smoothly?

Frankly, high schoolers can be an exhausting handful. Classified staff are not paid nearly as much as they should be for dealing with our constant destruction of school property. And yet, our classified staff continue to work hard to create a clean environment for us students — even when having to cover greater ground because of staffing shortages.

If this problem is impacting both SDUHSD staff and the students who frequent its schools, why is the district not doing more to make amends?

Our classified staff are absolutely entitled to better wages. The Falconer stands with the classified employees of TPHS and SDUHSD in their fight for equity.

Read on Issuu.

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