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Compton teachers call in sick for the second time in a week, and students follow suit

Compton second grade teacher Tamara Carter protests for a pay increase at school district headquarters.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC
Compton second grade teacher Tamara Carter protests for a pay increase at school district headquarters.

The year-long conflict in Compton between the school district and its teachers unions escalated on Friday. Compton Education Association President Patrick Sullivan said teachers at 10 of the school district’s 37 campuses called in sick.

It was the second apparent sick-out of the week after the teachers union said 200 teachers called in sick on Monday. School district officials refused to release exact numbers for how many teachers and students did not attend school. 

The union said that teachers called in sick at seven elementary schools and three middle schools; district officials confirmed that "many" teachers did not attend work at nine campuses, but refused to name them.

“This is the second time this week that the teachers have chosen to miss work and carry over the issues related to the contract negotiations to our students, schools, and community,” school board president Satra Zurita said in a written statement.

The union did not say the teacher sick-out was meant to pressure the school district in stalled contract talks.

But the union is currently at odds with the school district over teachers’ request for a new contract with a 5 percent pay increase.

“You need to put money into the classroom, where the students are and that should be the priority,” teachers union President Patrick Sullivan said at a teacher and staff rally at school district headquarters on Tuesday.

On Friday, students also reportedly skipped school in large numbers, anticipating that their teachers would also be absent — even at campuses where most teachers did report for work. 

Students leaving Centennial High School, where many teachers called in sick on Monday, said more than half of students were not at school because they anticipated another teacher action. 

“The students didn’t want to relive what happened Monday so a lot of students didn’t come, but it turned out teachers came,” said eleventh grader L’Shay Brown.

She said 20 out of 33 students were absent in one of her classes.

This may not be the end of staff actions in Compton schools. The school district’s 250 classified employees are also negotiating a labor contract. Union President Sullivan said classified staff may take action next week.