California Educator

February/March 2024

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Page 38 of 59

" To take something away that the community and staff worked on for the betterment of our district, students and community is atrocious." — AUTA President Sara Liebert AUTA filed a grievance over class sizes and other issues last fall; after mediation, the local reached agreement with the district. But the battles continue. A Win for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion Auburn local celebrates school board's vote to keep DEI statement Auburn Union Teachers Association and its community partners scored a big victory in mid-December when the Auburn Union School District board voted 3-2 against rescinding the district's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policy statement. AUTA has been conducting a strategic organizing campaign for months against an extremist agenda by three recently elected trust- ees. This included hosting a town hall prior to the board meeting to coordinate efforts to retain the DEI statement, fight the recent deci- sion to convert three schools to K–8 sites next year, and organize around other issues. The town hall turnout was "unprecedented," according to AUTA President Sara Liebert, with more than 30 com- munity members in attendance. "Parents and community members needed a safe place to ask questions, voice concerns and speak without being criticized or falling on deaf ears. Because the district has not been a safe place for them, they came to AUTA to be heard." "Losing the DEI statement would have been detrimental to our ELD, homeless, SPED and low socio-economic students," Liebert said. " The harm to our staff and community would have been immeasur- able. Everyone should have the right to a barrier-free education, and the thought that the district wanted to eliminate it was awful — an unequivocal abuse of power. To take something away that the community and staff worked on for the betterment of our district, students and community is atrocious." AUTA and its allies played a role in one of the conservative board members voting — unexpectedly — to retain the DEI policy statement. They made it known that this board member works at Placer Food Bank, which has a DEI statement saying it "is com- mitted to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in our organization." Public comment at the board meeting raised valid concerns about the district's K-8 transformation with no actual plan in place, no documentation about costs and a lack of communication and transparency with families. AUTA and community members said moving forward with the change would impact the goals and decisions already set by stakeholders in the Local Control and Accountability Plan, threatening Title 1 funds and other monies targeted for the dis- trict's lowest performing students and schools. Earlier in the fall, AUTA educators mounted a "Save Our Students!" campaign over class sizes, inadequate staffing, consolidation of schools that negatively impacted SPED and ELL students, a lack of safe drinking water in some schools, and other issues. While Liebert said AUTA and its partners face an uphill battle with the district, they are energized by the successful DEI vote and hope the momentum will carry over into the work this year. Jackie Howard contributed to this report. 37 F E B R U A R Y / M A R C H 2 0 24 A

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